Food Industry

Chicago leads the nation in food manufacturing


  • Chicago is a hub for both food processing and TDL, with over 1200 food manufacturing companies operating in Chicago.[1]
  • The Chicago region has been the center for food production, warehousing, and distribution since the 1800s.
  • 72,000 of the nation’s top farms cover nearly 76% of Illinois’ land area Illinois farms are top producers of corn, soybeans, livestock, dairy and poultry.
  • Chicago’s employment for food and beverage manufacturing is the top in the US at over 55,000.[2]
  • Chicago has the largest food and beverage manufacturing economy by output at $7.225B.[3]
  • Illinois ranks #1 in the U.S. with $180B in processed food sales.
  • Illinois has over 2600 food manufacturing companies.[4]


  • Q2 2020 represents the 40th consecutive quarter of positive net absorption for Chicago’s industrial market, recording just over 6.2 million sq. ft. year-to-date, with over 3.4 million sq. ft. of construction completed that quarter.[5]
  • Chicago is the third largest intermodal system globally, benefiting from 200 million consumers within a 500-mile radius and 30% of North American consumers within a one-day truck drive.[6]
  • Chicago is the nation’s rail hub, with six of the seven Class I railroads operating major terminals, which is the only U.S. gateway where these Class I railroads can interchange traffic.
  • O’Hare is the nation’s second largest port by value, with 6.2% of all US trade.[7]
  • At over 1.2 billion sq ft, Chicago has the largest industrial market in the US by square feet with over 1/3 more inventory than the next largest market (LA).[8]

Talent Pipeline:

  • Nationwide, University of IL-Urbana Champaign has the highest number of graduates in food science and technology nationwide and Illinois produces the second highest number of food science graduates in the US.
  • There are 10,800 food scientists or food manufacturing technicians employed in the Chicago-area.[9]
  • Chicago has the highest number of food machine operators and batchmakers in the nation.[10]
  • UIUC is ranked in the top 5 schools in the US for Food Science Technology.
  • The City Colleges of Chicago Apprenticeship Program offers technical instruction for both a Basic Certificate and Advanced Certificate in Factory Automation, as well as an Associate in Applied Science for Manufacturing Technology.
  • The Chicago area has 32 commercially licensed, shared-use kitchen spaces (commissary kitchens) available for use by food entrepreneurs.


  • Chicago food and beverage startups have raised a total of $745.1M in funding, with 16% of food tech startups acquired, one of the top acquisition rates in the nation.[11]
  • Companies in Illinois spent $773M on food R&D in 2017, the second highest amount nation-wide.[12]
  • Chicago is home to the Hatchery, a 67,00 sq ft food and beverage incubator dedicated to helping local entrepreneurs build & grow successful businesses.[13]
  • Chicago has 25% greater density in food and ag startups vs. the national average.[14]
  • Agriculture is growing in the state with $3.2B invested in AgTech in Illinois in 2016.[15]
  • 30% of venture capital funds in Illinois was invested in food companies.[16]

Top Employers:

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company 2759
Mondelez International, Inc. 2,000
Kellogg Company 1902
The Tootsie Roll Company Inc 1,650
Rich Products Corporation 750
Earthgrains Refrigerated Dough Products, Inc. 700
Nation Pizza Products, L.P. 700
Mars Chocolate North America, LLC 590
Rose Packing Company, Inc. 530
The Hillshire Brands Company 517
General Mills, Inc. 500
Nestle Prepared Foods Company 495
Hearthside Usa, LLC 434
Mullins Food Products, Inc. 405
Kraft Heinz Foods Company 400