Hungry for more: Kentucky’s food and beverage industry continues to thrive

By the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

(Photo Courtesy of the Governor’s Communication’s Team)

After a record year in 2021 that saw Kentucky set all-time highs in investment and job growth, it is no surprise that many of the commonwealth’s major industries continue to thrive and build on its unprecedented momentum.

One of the key industries seeing consistent growth and success is the food and beverage sector, which since the start of Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration has announced more than 125 new-location and expansion projects totaling over $2.4 billion in investments while creating more than 3,300 full-time jobs. The state’s growing food, beverage and agritech industry includes more than 350 facilities and employs over 52,000 Kentucky residents.

“The economic momentum we are seeing in Kentucky is not possible without the incredible growth of our food, beverage and agritech sector,” said Gov. Beshear. “We have announced incredible projects and economic development opportunities within this industry across the commonwealth in recent years, and there is no sign of that growth slowing down any time soon. We have the people, the companies, the resources and the logistics strength to deliver high-quality food and beverage products and experiences to not just consumers in Kentucky, but throughout the country. I am excited about the continued growth of our food and beverage industry and the quality job opportunities it brings to the commonwealth.”

Since the beginning of 2021, the commonwealth has announced several major food and beverage-related projects that set the foundation for even more growth in the future.

In April 2021, Gov. Beshear announced tofu producer House Foods America Corp. will locate its first Kentucky facility in Louisville Riverport Authority’s Phase 5 development with a $146.3 million investment that will create 109 full-time jobs. The project will see the construction of a 350,000-square-foot facility in southwest Louisville to produce tofu using 100% U.S. grown, non-GMO soybeans and other food products for customers throughout the United States. Work on the project is set to begin this year and be completed by 2025.

A significant contributor to Kentucky’s food and beverage success has been growth of the state’s agritech sector. Last October, QSR Automations Inc., a technology developer for the restaurant and hospitality industries, officially opened their new global headquarters and tech campus in Louisville. The approximately $10 million investment created 30 new jobs and accommodates continued development of the company’s ConnectSmart kitchen display systems for customers that include major restaurant chains such as KFC, Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory, Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel and Outback Steakhouse.

The commonwealth’s food and beverage success has rolled into 2022, with Gov. Beshear in February joining leaders from Tyson Foods and local officials in Bowling Green to break ground on the company’s new $355 million bacon production facility. The new 400,000-square-foot manufacturing operation is creating 450 full-time jobs to meet growing demand for the company’s iconic Wright and Jimmy Dean brands and is slated to begin production in late 2023.

Complementing Kentucky’s continued food and beverage growth are a host of other business-friendly elements, including the state’s ideal geographic location that places companies within a day’s drive of more than two-thirds of the nation’s population, personal income and manufacturing operations. With highly developed logistics and distribution infrastructure and facilities – including four major ground and air shipping hubs – Kentucky provides businesses with numerous reliable, air, road, waterway and rail shipping options. Administration-to-date, the commonwealth’s distribution and logistics sector has seen over $600 million in new investment as it provides food and beverage companies with the resources needed to get products to consumers as quickly as possible.

Spirits are High

Another key component of Kentucky’s food and beverage growth is its signature bourbon and spirits industry, which since the start of the Beshear administration has announced more than 50 new-location or expansion projects totaling over $1.1 billion in planned investments, creating more than 900 announced full-time jobs. Currently, more than 5,300 people are directly employed by distilleries, but their impact extends even further. Bourbon in Kentucky is a nearly $9 billion industry, generating more than 22,500 jobs with an annual payroll exceeding $1.23 billion.

Projects announced in 2022 include Heaven Hill Distillery in Nelson County, Casey Jones Distillery in Christian County, Bardstown Bourbon Co. in Nelson County, Four Roses Bourbon in Bullitt County and Kentucky Cooperage in Marion County, which total $192.5 million in investments and102 full-time jobs created throughout the state.

Kentucky’s food, beverage and agritech industry has been a major part of the commonwealth’s recent success, and it will continue to play an important role as state leaders build the economy of the future.

With its central location, skilled workforce, existing infrastructure and logistics strength, Kentucky has something cooking.

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