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Editor’s Plate: The Numbers Behind Our Top 100

Aug. 5, 2016
With a little interpretation, our annual list also is a barometer of the health of the food and beverage industry.
We’re quite proud of Our Top 100© list. It’s the only list of its kind, one that ranks companies as U.S. and Canadian food and beverage processors, stripping away the commodity ingredients, the products made and sold in China and the deodorants and shampoos.

We don’t mean to make this into some kind of competition, especially since the numbers you see involve some interpretation by us. But it is worth noting that Tyson unseated PepsiCo, which had held the No. 1 position on the chart for five years. This is not Tyson’s first turn as the No. 1 company; the Arkansas firm in 2006 ended a 30-year run by Kraft Foods.

It’s also a good scorecard for the general health of the food and beverage industry. Looking beyond the top-line sales figures tells a lot about the current state of business ... although generalizations are hard to come up with.

Some things worth noting:

  • This year (based mostly on 2015 sales), 33 of the companies reported sales increases of at least 2 percent (last year 44 had sales increases of that size, 2014 over 2013)
  • 25 recorded sales decreases (last year only 10 had decreases)
  • 31 had profits improve by at least 2 percent (last year 36)
  • 27 saw profits decline (last year 29)
  • Four companies had net losses (last year there were seven) and three of those four have lost money at least two years in a row

It’s safe to call that a mixed bag, certainly not a stellar performance across the board. But it’s never easy, is it? Even the star performers within the chart did well mostly because of sizable acquisitions. Tyson is one, its sales growing by more than 11 percent, although that $4 billion bump entirely may be due to its acquisition of Hillshire Brands. But its 43 percent increase in net income is a testament to its management of this big acquisition and the debt it involved.

J.M. Smucker is in the same two boats. Its $2 billion sales increase (thanks to its purchase of Big Heart Pet Brands) is great, but its nearly 100 percent increase in profit took real finesse.

Less worthy of compliment is Post Holdings’ near-doubling of sales (due to the acquisitions of MOM Brands and Michael Foods), which only kept it $115 million in red ink.

If you like to play with numbers, see our even bigger Top 100© interactive list. It’s a nifty little tool. Click Company Name to make the list alphabetic. Sort it by Total Company Sales. Or create a list based on profitability. Even better: Click on a company name and you get a profile of each company, which includes headquarters address, phone numbers, top executives, subsidiaries, food categories, even brands. It would have taken 100 magazine pages to get it all into print, but it’s all there on the web for your use throughout the year.

Vote for a Green Plant of the Year

Voting for Green Plant of the Year is now open. We have two worthy contenders:

  • ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston processing facility in Boardman, Ore., which makes french fries and other frozen potato products, received LEED Silver certification, in part due to a recent 340,000-sq.-ft. addition to the existing building.
  • In West Springfield, Mass., cows in Agri-Mark’s cooperative provide the cream and the electricity needed to make Cabot Creamery butter.

For the details, read their persuasive essays, and cast your vote. The plant with the most votes wins and will be profiled in our October issue.

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