From the Missouri Economic Development Guide

Feast of Plenty

Missouri is a food production powerhouse

Image courtesy of Missouri Partnership
Source: Missouri Department Of Agriculture

As the geographic center of the nation's population, Missouri lies at the crossroads of America's food and food production sectors. The Show Me State is home to nearly 100,000 farms, second-most in the nation, covering 28.3 million acres.

In 2016, agriculture and related industries contributed more than $88 billion in sales and more than 378,000 jobs in Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The state plays a leading role in the nation's production of agricultural products and ranks fourth for rice acres harvested, ninth for soybean acres harvested, 10th for corn acres planted, third for beef cows and seventh for hog sales.

Missouri's food production sector also includes nearly 400 companies, including household names such as Tyson, Kraft, Budweiser, Nestlé and Con Agra.

General Mills launched operations in the famed town of Hannibal on the Mississippi River in 2001 and today is a major jobs provider, employing about 1,000 people with an annual payroll of $80 million. A $65-million expansion of the plant, now being completed, will make it among the company's biggest US food production facility and the sole worldwide supplier of Progresso Soup.

"The plant will continue to make Progresso Soups, Hamburger Helper, Old El Paso, and Fiber One and Nature Valley Granola bars," the company says in a statement, adding that "General Mills is a proud member of the Hannibal community. We're excited to continue to grow and work with our talented workforce in Hannibal."

The Hannibal expansion was enabled through the city's issuance of industrial development bonds to fund $7 million in property improvements and $58 million in new equipment. The investments will help the company to build a third soup line at the plant.

"I'm proud of General Mills for thinking enough of our community to put more dollars into it," says Hal Benedict, a member of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council.

"The Best Choice"

Colorado-based Aurora Organic Dairy, a leading producer of organic milk and butter, is making a massive investment in the heart of Missouri, having broken ground on a $141 million milk plant, the company's second, to be completed next year in Columbia.

"Columbia was the best choice," says Marc Peperzak, founder and CEO, "because it offers a location that expands and improves the efficiency of our total supply chain from organic feed, to milk, to consumer."

The plant is expected to bring 150 new, full-time jobs to the area, which lies directly between Kansas City and St. Louis.

"This is a great addition to the Columbia region," says Steve Johnson, CEO of Missouri Partnership, a public-private economic development partnership. "Food solutions," says Johnson, "is a key strength for Missouri due to our robust food production sector and our leading role in agriculture."

California-based Ajinomoto Windsor, a leading company in the frozen food industry, is another out-of-state firm that recognizes Missouri's food production prowess. The company, which staked out a presence near Joplin more than 20 years ago, is set to open a new frozen appetizer production plant in the city. The $39-million investment is expected to create up to 240 new jobs.

Frick's Quality Meats began as a butcher shop in Washington, Missouri, in 1896. From that humble beginning, the family-owned business has grown to a nationally known brand with retail distribution to 44 states and a 120,000-sq.-ft. facility that makes smoked meats and sausages. In late 2017, Frick's broke ground on an 18,000-sq.-ft. expansion, an $8-million investment expected to bring 40 new jobs to the town just west of St. Louis. The expansion will facilitate the company's move into organics.

"We look forward to the opportunities the expansion brings," says fifth-generation owner Dave Frick, "including meeting the growing demand of our customers and the launch of Frick's Natural and Organic Products."

Something Big is Brewing

Missouri is home to more than 130 wineries, 50 craft breweries, and 20 distilleries and the world-famous Budweiser family of beers. Budweiser parent, Anheuser-Busch, announced 2017 investments in its St. Louis brewery and its bottling plant in Arnold totaling more than $20 million.

The state's top craft breweries include Kansas City Bier Company, Boulevard and Martin City Brewing company in Kansas City; 4 Hands Brewing Co., Schlafly and Perennial Artisan Ales in St. Louis; Logboat Brewing Company in Columbia; and Mother's Brewing Company in Springfield. Mother's offers a handful of beers, including "Foggy Notion" and "Rye Barrel Milf," that come with a hefty alcohol-by-volume content of 11-percent.

Brick River Cider, which opened in a converted firehouse in St. Louis in October, is the city's first dedicated cider works. The company supports local agriculture by exclusively using fresh Midwestern apples.

"Our ciders," says the company, "range from classic and traditional to bold and innovative, but whatever style they are all 100 percent gluten-free from fresh, pressed regional fruit, never concentrate."

Other recent food and beverage industry investments include:

  • An 82,000-sq.-ft. facility by Texas-based egg producer Vital Farms. The $13-million project is expected to bring 50 new jobs to the Springfield area.
  • A 12,000-sq.-ft. expansion of the Triumph Foods pork processing plan in St. Joseph. Triumph employs more than 2,700 workers at the plant.
  • Ohio-based SugarCreek, producer of raw and cully cooked foods, plans to create 70 new jobs by expanding its 10-year-old plant in Carthage.
  • Nestlé USA announced plans to add as many as 300 technology jobs in St. Louis by moving its IT operations there from California.

Gary Daughters
Senior Editor

Gary Daughters

Gary Daughters is a Peabody Award winning journalist who began with Site Selection in 2016. Gary has worked as a writer and producer for CNN covering US politics and international affairs. His work has included lengthy stints in Washington, DC and western Europe. Gary is a 1981 graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in Journalism and Mass Communications. He lives in Atlanta with his teenage daughter, and in his spare time plays guitar, teaches golf and mentors young people.


Missouri's strengths are only getting stronger as the state builds momentum, reduces red tape, encourages entrepreneurs and builds a better workforce — all for the benefit of business in the Show Me State.

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