Ohio is a Midwestern state with a population of about 11.9 million. Boasting a diverse and burgeoning economy, it is a state with numerous major industries fuelling the economy.  

These industries include aerospace, bioscience, automotive, energy, education, food processing and agriculture, a sector in which one out of every seven Ohioans are employed.  

According to official statistics from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2021 saw the state report a GDP of approximately $656bn, which represents a consistent rise over the past decade. 

Starting a business in the food industry… why Ohio?

When starting a business in the food industry it can be critical to establish the infrastructure and success of the sector in the locations being considered.  

Ohio is, traditionally, a successful and strong food and agribusiness state, with hundreds of companies operating out of it for cultivating, processing, packaging and distributing a range of food and drink to both domestic and international markets.  

Though it has a diverse economic landscape, Ohio boasts a food and agriculture sector that ranks among the top industries in the state.  

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This includes a highly skilled and trained food manufacturing and production workforce, something potential employers will see as an advantage.  

Skilled workforce offers potential for starting food industry business

With more than 23,000 people directly employed within the food industry across Ohio, a number that is forecast to rise, the pool of talent is significant. In addition to this, Ohio is also home to numerous and advanced research, processing, warehousing and distributing resources.  

This kind of infrastructure and innovation makes the state a good choice for starting a business in the food industry, enabling a more streamlined set-up that is fiscally beneficial.   

In a report published by Team NEO, a non-profit economic development organisation dedicated to accelerating business growth and job creation throughout Ohio, the food manufacturing industry generated more than $3bn in 2018 with forecasts for continued growth.  

Thanks to Ohio providing over 200 types of products across more than 14.9 million acres of farmland, according to the USDA, the state’s food industry continues to prosper. 

Continued investment driving Ohio food industry growth

Starting a business in the food industry in Ohio continues to be an attractive investment proposition. In part, this is driven by big-name companies locating or expanding operations in the state.  

In late 2022, General Mills announced its latest investment in the state food industry with $100m being pumped into expanding and upgrading its Wellston manufacturing facility. 

Further investments include a major upgrade announced by the Bunker Hill Cheese Co, which continues to invest in its Holmes County, Ohio facility and expand the food industry operations.  

Led by coffee and pet food products, food manufacturing giant Smuckers also started 2023 with strong results from the previous year leading to positive growth projections for their sector.

In addition to this, another boost for the food industry comes from Seattle-based food group SK Food Group. The company has opted to invest $13m in a new food manufacturing facility in Columbus.  

In terms of job creation, this alone will deliver about 250 jobs over the next three years.  

Ohio emerges as a hub for food industry innovation 

Led by the Center for Innovative Food Technology, Ohio’s drive towards innovation across the various food industry sectors continues to move apace.  

As a prominent state in terms of research and innovation in the food industry, which is a primary economic driver for the state, Ohio has enabled its food industry to become increasingly adaptable to market changes and technological advances.  

With current investments of more than $100m designated to food-related research and development, Ohio’s food industry remains buoyant, highlighting that the state is a good location for starting a business in the food industry.  

Research and development key to sector growth

Ohio’s food industry performs 43% more research and development when compared with the national state average in the US, giving it a prominent position in the country.

To put this into context, the state has 60% more engineers than the US average, 40% more engineering technicians, and 38% more food scientists and technologists. 

These investments are designed to support numerous food industry sectors, including food and beverage machinery and packaging, food and beverage processing and manufacturing, and food and beverage wholesale and warehousing.  

From agriculture to food trucks to bakeries, restaurants and grocery stores, the food industry in Ohio continues to drive a significant percentage of the state’s economy.  

With this and the continued government support, company investments and business-friendly tax incentive environment in Ohio, it continues to represent a propitious place for starting a business in the food industry.  

Information, Data, and Statistics from Statistica, Globalisation and World Cities Research Network, Ohio Chamber of Industry and Commerce, US Census Bureau, Drive Electric Ohio.