May 30, 2023

The future of food manufacturing is in Illinois

The 2023 Chicago Future of Food Venture Summit highlights a vast food ecosystem.

Illinois’ interconnected strengths in agriculture, transportation, finance and technology are key reasons that the state – and the Chicago metro area – have become leaders in food manufacturing and innovation, according to a new report unveiled at World Business Chicago’s Future of Food Venture Summit earlier this month. The flagship event within the region’s food, venture and startup communities, showcased the thriving industry and its opportunities for growth.

“We found that Chicagoland’s food ecosystem benefits from our robust manufacturing sector as well as our broader diverse economy — food producers here have closer connections with suppliers and customers,” stated the Future of Food report, presented to over 1,000 food manufacturing industry investors, founders, innovators and corporate executives attending the summit.

Key findings from the report include (the full report can be found here):

  • Agriculture and agtech are important parts of the metro area’s food production ecosystem, reflecting that the entire region is involved in the food production supply chain. Food producers here benefit from proximity to agriculture, other food producers, and critical suppliers like packaging manufacturers. The area’s supply chain is larger than in comparable metro areas, while also offering specialized talent and services, like finance and tech.
  • Investment in the food innovation ecosystem continues to grow. In 2022, there were 76 venture capital deals for the Chicago region’s food innovation companies, a 27% increase from 2019. As of Q1 2023, deal flow remains on pace with 2022.
  • The area leads in biotech-based food production. Over 60% of Chicago’s startups receiving seed funding were developers of alternative protein or dietary-specific food options developed through the application of biotechnology to food production.
  • The region offers both competitive advantages and growth opportunities. Sub-sectors such as sugar and confectionary manufacturing or grain milling and bakeries overperform, while there is an opportunity to grow in areas like beverage and dairy manufacturing. Illinois offers companies in these sub-sectors proximity to collaborative partners with the specialized expertise and technology needed to bring new products to market.

The report also projected that the region’s food industry output will increase by 9% between 2022 and 2026. As producers become more connected to the tech, life sciences, manufacturing, finance, agriculture and transportation and logistics industries, Illinois’ vast network within these industries and unrivaled supply chain will continue to be essential to growth.

The state’s connectivity not only gives food manufacturers access to collaborators, but the resources to bring products to markets across the world. With its robust railway, interstate and port systems, along with the most connected airport in the world, businesses in Illinois have the connections they need to reach customers anywhere.

As leaders look at the future of food, it’s clear that Illinois is at the center of a thriving food manufacturing and innovation ecosystem that can help such companies build momentum and deliver success. For additional information on growing your business in Illinois, contact Intersect Illinois.

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