What are the biggest food companies in the US? (+Amazing brands)

Have you ever wondered who the biggest food producers are in the United States?

If yes, this article is for you.

I did some research to find out what food companies are the biggest, based on sales revenue and found some very interesting information.

The biggest food companies in the US are: 1) Archer Daniels Midland with $85.3 billion in sales in 2021, 2) PepsiCo with $74.5 billion in sales in 2021, and 3) Tyson Foods with $47.0 billion in sales in 2021. Cargill is worth mentioning because they are a large US food company but have additional non-food operations, with a total of $134.4 billion in sales in 2021.

Some of the world’s largest food companies are based or headquartered in the US. 

This article discusses some of the top American food companies by revenue and their financial performances in 2021. 

We found many wonderful companies and brands worth studying, lots of great marketing strategies, several iconic brands worth investigating and many brands that are worth modeling for sales and marketing strategies, marketing tactics and more. 

Let’s get started.

How many food companies are in the US?

You see, if there is one thing the United States does well, it’s produce food. In fact, according to the World Integrated Trade Solution, the US exported $45.28 billion in food in 2019, 2nd only to Germany who exported $45.31 billion in food.

We can talk about who is buying this exported food at another time, but for this article, let’s just answer, “Who are the biggest food companies in the US?”

And as great marketers do, in future tutorials we will do a deep dive to review what these companies are doing for marketing with the intent to improve the food marketing business and the manufacturing marketing business. 

But of course, since we are marketers, we want to help the company(s) we work for to make sales by gaining more customers and keeping those customers, while at the same time making some money ourselves!

So who are the biggest and what are they producing?

Let’s answer that now.

Which are the largest food companies in the United States?

There are over 31,000 food and beverage companies in the US, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

Here are twelve of the largest food manufacturers in the United States.  Most of these are public so the information is pretty easy to find, especially the financials. As we dig deeper into other tutorials we will do some critical analytics on their brands, marketing strategies and more. 

While Sysco and Us Foodsare more than worthy for this list, we are not adding them because they are largely food distributors. Additionally, while there is a lot to learn from the Hershey Company, J.M. Smuckers, and even Tootsie Roll Industries, among other companies with leading food brands, we didn’t want to focus on candy and confectionery for this tutorial. 

Yes, it's arguable that PepsiCo and Coca Cola, and even Mondelez don’t belong in a best food listing as they dont produce food that anyone could even remotely sustain themselves on. But, they are such enormous market leaders with leading brands and they do so much sales revenue that we feel compelled to add them. After all, I have had my fair share of Rold Gold pretzels (A PepsiCo brand) with a can of Diet Coke (A Coca-Cola brand).

Ok, let’s go.

1. Archer Daniels Midland Company

For over a century, Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADMC) has maintained its status as one of the top dogs in the North American food scene. 

Archer Daniels Midland Company is a remarkable, world-class company. They are worthy of research by a professional marketer for a variety of reasons. Not just because they deliver so much shareholder value. And not just because they are probably the biggest producer in the US.

But because they touch almost every food product for the others in the list. And for the most part, they do it quietly, behind the scenes from the highly competitive retail food markets. 

Whether you agree with their food products or not, Archer Daniel Midland (NYSE: ADM) is a world class food company. 

Currently, the company operates in more than 70 countries with their headquarters in Chicago, IL. 

Its operations revolve around manufacturing, selling, and distributing nutrition products, including proteins, emulsifiers, natural flavor ingredients, and flavor systems. 

The company also engages in procuring, transporting, storing, and cleansing agricultural goods. It enjoyed a relatively successful year in 2021 with annual revenue of $85.25 billion, up from $64.36 in 2020.

2. PepsiCo Inc.

Known for its extensive catalog of products, including Pepsi, Pepsi Diet, and Mountain Due, PepsiCo remains America’s largest food and beverage producer and distributor. 

The NYC-based corporation boasted revenue of $79.47 billion in 2021 and an operating profit of $11.1 billion, a significant increase on its 2020 figures of $70.37 billion in revenue and $10.08 billion in operating profit.

PepsiCo is headquartered in Harrison, NY.

Here is a screenshot of https://www.pepsico.com/. Their messaging is very interesting, combined with their use of images, models, product placement, and general theme of having fun and partying it up with groups of people.

Additionally, they definitely promote a “Me” message with their navigation bar saying, “Who We Are”, “Our Impact”, “Our Brands”, “Our Stories” and then of course, “Investors”. The only benefit to the customer on the page is their main headline that starts out with “Create more smiles…”

It is clear PepsiCo is not competing on a Customer Intimacy customer value proposition. With so much focus on “look at me” this is “how great we are”, this is a big clue that they are focusing on the Product Leadership customer value proposition. And with a company this size with such a dominant market position in so many categories, it is also possible they are leading in the Operational Excellence customer value proposition, too. Only world class companies can accomplish this, such as Johnson & Johnson, let alone attempt it and gain any degree of substantial success.

Yahoo Finance reports PepsiCo’s sales revenue has shown significant increases in the last 2-3 years.

There is no question they have delivered monstrous value to their investors over the years, compared to other food companies. They have such a deep portfolio that is so ingrained into the supply chain of almost every place a person touches food, it's hard to imagine someone easily taking their place in the short term. 

This in itself a deep moat, and a leading reason why PepsiCo is such a monster in food.

3. Cargill

Cargill is a household name in the livestock, agricultural, and processed food markets. 

Founded in 1865, the company has lived through a series of acquisitions and now boasts an annual revenue of $134.4 billion (2021). You are invited to review their annual report here.

Cargill has operations across all continents. North America is its largest market, accounting for more than a third of its revenue. Cargill’s headquarters is in Minneapolis, MN

4. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Tyson Foods, Inc. specializes in processed food production and operates through four segments: beef, pork, chicken, and prepared foods. It only comes second to Brazilian multinational JBS SA in the beef, chicken, and pork processing market and is the United States’ leading beef exporter. 

The company’s major food brands include Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Wright Brand, State FAIR, Aidells, and Ball Park.

Despite the high pandemic-induced employee absenteeism that the company experienced in 2020 and 2021, it still reported revenue increases in both years. 

Its annual revenue for 2021 was $47.049 billion, an 8.95% increase from 2020. Tyson Foods headquarters is in Springdale, AR.

5. Mondelez

Mondelez is an American multinational company that manufactures and sells snacks, powdered beverage products, cheese, and groceries. It boasts a portfolio of famous snack brands like Cadbury, Oreo, Toblerone, Milka, belVita, LU biscuits, Tang powdered beverages, and Trident gum. 

The company operates in over 80 countries and sells its products in 150 countries. Its subsidiaries include Mondelez Oesterreich Production GmbH, Mondelez Australia Holdings Pty. Ltd., and Mondelez Argentina S.A. 

The company’s annual revenue for 2021 was $28.72 billion. Mondelez headquarters is in Chicago, IL. 

6. Coca-Cola

Thanks to a diverse product portfolio, solid equity, and top-tier marketing, Coca-Cola has retained its place among the key players in the non-alcoholic beverage industry. Currently, the company holds almost half of the market share in the industry, with its flagship brands enjoying a presence in virtually every country in the world. 

On top of its billion-dollar brands – Fanta, Sprite, Coke, Minute Maid, Dasani, etc. – the company has more recently introduced low-calorie drinks like Lilt Zero, Powerade Zero, and Diet Coke to counter competition and meet the increasing demand for healthier beverages.

Despite focusing on a narrow share of the food and beverages industry, Coca-Cola remains one of the largest food companies by revenue. 

Its revenue for 2021 was $38.66 billion. Coca Cola headquarters is in Chicago, IL. 

7. The Kraft Heinz Company (KHC)

The Kraft Heinz Company manufactures and markets food and beverage products across the globe.

Their impressive portfolio of brands includes Oscar Meyer, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Bagel Bites, Heinz Ketchup, Primal Kitchen, and many more. Its products include condiments and sauces, cheese and dairy products, meals, meats, refreshment beverages, coffee, and other grocery products. Kraft Heinz sells its products through its own sales organizations, as well as through independent brokers, agents, and distributors through a wide network.

The Kraft Heinz Company was founded in 1869 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The company has 36,000 employees. 

Its annual revenue for 2021 was $26.0 billion. Kraft Heinz headquarters is in Chicago, IL.

8. General Mills

General Mills is another marketing anomali.

They are a food manufacturer that sells cereals, yogurt, soup, meal kits, frozen pizza, nutrition bars, wellness beverages, and more. They also sell pet food.

Their impressive brands include Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Blue Buffalo, Cheerios, Chex, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Fiber One, Fruit Roll-Ups, Gardetto's, Go-Gurt, Gold Medal, Golden Grahams, Häagen-Dazs, Lucky Charms, Pillsbury, Progresso, Raisin Nut Bran, Total, Wheaties, and more.

They sell products directly, as well as through broker and distribution arrangements to grocery stores, mass merchandisers, e-commerce retailers, foodservice distributors and operators, restaurants, as well as drug, dollar, and discount chains.

Their reported sales in 2021 was $18.1 billion.

General Mills, Inc. was founded in 1866 and is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

9. Kellogg Company

Kellogg Company is a marketing superstar.

They sell crackers, crisps, snacks, toaster pastries, cereal, waffles, and more.

Their brands are impressive, including Cheez-It, Pringles, Kashi, Eggo, Morningstar Farms, Choco Krispies, Crunchy Nut, Nutri-Grain, Special K, Squares, Pop-Tarts, Coco Pops, Frosties, Rice Krispies Squares, Gardenburger and more.

Kellogg sells to retailers through direct sales forces, as well as brokers and distributors.

The company was founded in 1906 and is headquartered in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Their reported sales in 2021 was $14.2 billion.

10. Hormel Foods

Hormel Foods Corporation focuses on various meat, nuts, and food products to retail, foodservice, deli, and commercial customers. 

Its well known brands include Skippy, Spam, Hormel, Jennie-O, Planters, Planters Cheez Balls, Corn Nuts, and more. They sell through a network of sales personnel, independent brokers, and distributors. 

Their reported sales in 2021 was $11.4 billion, and they are headquartered in Austin, Minnesota.

11. Conagra Brands

Conagra Brands has an impressive portfolio of food brands.  The company primarily offers shelf stable food products , temperature-controlled food products, and meals, entrees, sauces, and various custom-manufactured products packaged for sale to restaurants. They sell through various retail channels in the United States and worldwide.

Some of their well-known brands include Birds Eye, Duncan Hines, Healthy Choice, Marie Callender's, Reddi-wip, and Slim Jim, Hunts and Reddi Wip.

Their reported sales in 2021 was $11.2 billion, they employ 18,600 people and are headquartered in Chicago, IL.

12. Campbell Soups Company

Campbell Soup Company is another iconic brand.

They sell retail and focus on condensed and ready-to-serve soups.

Their impressive brand list includes Swanson, Prego, Campbell's soups, etc, V8, and more. They also sell Pepperidge Farm, Milano cookies, Goldfish crackers, Snyder's of Hanover pretzels, Pop Secret popcorn and more.

They sell through retail food chains, mass discounters and merchandisers, e-commerce, independent distributors and others.

Campbell Soup Company was founded in 1869 and is headquartered in Camden, New Jersey.

Their reported sales in 2021 was $8.5 billion.

Conclusion

These are the largest and some of the best food companies that manufacturer a wide variety of foods in the US. Not only are their operations dialed in (and hopefully constantly improving), but their marketing systems are worthy of further study!

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