In 1981, William Wrigley Jr., a traveling soap and powder salesman, arrived in Chicago with just $32 in his pocket. With every sale he made, he would throw in a couple of sticks of chewing gum. Eventually, he dropped the soaps and powders but stuck with the gum, introducing his signature Juicy Fruit and Spearmint flavors at the 1893 World’s Fair. Fourteen years later, in 1920, he opened the Wrigley Company headquarters on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, helping to establish the city as the nation’s food and beverage capital.
Today, 4,500 food and beverage companies call the Chicago metropolitan area home, Food Dive reports. About 130,000 people are employed by these companies across the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing sectors. Read on to discover why Chicago has become the indisputable capital of food and beverage manufacturing in the U.S. over the last 100 years.
In the early 1890s, Chicago was the hub of all domestic transportation and shipping: there were canals leading to the Mississippi River and railroads tying the city to other major hubs like Detroit, Cincinnati, and New Orleans. This remains true today. The Windy City is an easy drive from the midwest, and the O’Hare International Airport is, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, the nation’s busiest. These factors make Chicago an easily reachable destination for international affiliates and branch workers.
Chicago and its surrounding suburbs are an interesting test pool for products, as they represent almost every kind of possible consumer. Alan Reed, the executive director of industry group Chicagoland Food and Beverage Network, told Food Dive that the area is “urban enough and suburban enough and rural enough to sort of be an interesting cross-section. …This is one of those places where if it makes it here, it’s probably going to make it in most places, or … it’s a big enough idea to go national.” It’s the area’s “midwestern sensibilities” that make it an easy place to experiment with new offerings.
An outstanding reputation
In 2018, McDonald’s moved its headquarters to the city’s trendy Fulton Market district. In a recent press release, the company announced that they’d received a “sizeable increase” in job applications — nearly 200,000 since the move. Joshua Secrest, the company’s senior director of global talent attraction, said, “We are now attracting diverse top talent from all over the world from other top employers. Our move to Chicago is consistently cited as a major reason for consideration from our recent hires.” The sheer number of successful companies in the area and the city’s outstanding reputation as being the capital of food and beverage manufacturing make it an ideal location for up and coming CPG companies.
For more on why four Chicago-based companies see the Windy City as vital for their present and future, read the full article on Food Dive here.