Here's a sweet fact: Pennsylvania's food-manufacturing industry grew 70 percent between 2008 and 2013, according to the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
An even sweeter fact: Central Pennsylvania is home to more than 100 food manufacturers. In fact, in state branding literature, the Hanover area of York County is often called the snack food capital of the world.
But the midstate is also home to candy-makers, dairies and other food processors. The food-making industry as a whole looks solid, executives said.
Utz Quality Foods Inc., which moved up one notch on this year’s list to No. 4, is one of the largest privately held food manufacturers in the region. The
Hanover-based snack-maker reported
3.7 percent revenue growth from 2012-13, going from about $540 million to about $560 million, according to Business Journal records.
“At Utz, we saw growth with our key customers as well as in our core product assortment,” said President and CEO Dylan Lisette. “This strong baseline, complemented with new items and brands to keep the assortment fresh, helped grow all of our brands.”
The Warrell Corp. in Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, makes Pennsylvania Dutch Candies, as well as branded, private-label and contract manufactured goods. Though the company slipped a little on the Top 100 list, going from No. 33 to No. 40, it posted a revenue increase of 1.43 percent from 2012-13, going from about $70 million to about $71 million.
Pat Huffman, the company’s president, said the cost of ingredients has gone up. But the industry is gaining in strength thanks to a 7 percent to 8 percent price increase from the big players — Hershey’s, Nestle and Mars Inc.
“That bodes well for the candy industry,” he said. “The candy business generally has been where a family doesn’t completely cut out its consumption. Candy always has been a reasonable price. You might not be able go to a play, or take the kids to Philly, but you can buy a candy bar and keep your kid smiling.”
As to the future of the food-manufacturing industry, Lisette and Huffman said it looks sweet.
Utz was the No. 4 salted-snack brand in the U.S. this year, Lisette said.
“We expect the growth to continue this year as consumers continue to increase snack occasions and frequencies, and we feel we are well positioned to take advantage of these trends in the marketplace,” he said. “Snacks are a hot industry right now fueled by innovation and consolidation.”
Warrell was No. 36 on the “Sweet 60” list of candy-makers in the country as ranked by Candy Industry Magazine.
“I am bullish on the candy industry and the fact that we have never attempted to be the center of the plate,” Huffman said. “We have always believed we are an affordable indulgence that, when you eat in moderation, is part of an appropriate diet.”