Chicago Metro Area Has One of the Densest Concentrations of Food-Related Businesses in the World

The Chicagoland area serves as the nation’s hub for food manufacturing workers, along with being home to the largest and most innovative food industry corporations. The region has direct access to productive farmland, in addition to a vast array of transportation options. Chicago’s location in the Midwest also plays a large role in enhancing its ability to transport products across the U.S. 

At the 2023 Chicago Venture Summit Future of Food, a report published by the World Business Chicago Research Center confirmed that Chicagoland is home to the largest metro area for food production in the U.S., along with leading the country in food bioengineering and production. 

One list of ten food companies headquartered in Chicagoland starts with McDonald’s, the global fast-food restaurant founded in 1955. McDonald’s employs 1.9 million people worldwide. Kraft Heinz is a food and beverage company with 37,000 employees. The company was founded in 2015 after a merger of Heinz and Kraft Food Groups. ConAgra Brands, founded in 1919, employs 18,600 people. It moved its global headquarters from Nebraska to Chicago in 2015. 

Other top food-related companies headquartered in Chicagoland include Mead Johnson Nutrition, Tock, GrubHub, Home Chef, Double Good, Pampered Chef, and KitchFix. 

Mars Wrigley has several offices worldwide, with Chicago being its global headquarters. The company’s roots date back to 1891, when entrepreneur William Wrigley moved to Chicago to sell soap for his father’s company. Offering two free packs of chewing gum to go along with soap or baking powder, Wrigley’s business quickly took off. He brought forth his own brands of chewing gum in 1893 and by 1911 Wrigley’s Spearmint was the leader of the gum market in the U.S. 

Wrigley’s portfolio included railroads, hotels, mining, and real estate. He bought the Chicago Cubs in 1920, and Cubs Park was renamed Wrigley Field in 1926. Though Wrigley is now owned by Mars, its place in spurring food-related business growth in Chicago for over a century is undeniable. 

Chicago’s foothold in the food industry remains as strong as ever. As one article points out, “While many things have changed in about 130 years, Chicago’s place of prominence in the food industry has not. It’s still the home base for many global companies, which tout its location, population, and character of innovation as their reasons for being there.” 

Chicago is also one of the top ‘foodie’ cities in the U.S., ranking in the top 15 in the latest Wallethub survey. In the list of various criteria that were ranked, Chicago was No. 1 in the category of ‘Affordability and Accessibility of Highly Rate Restaurants.’ It also tied for first in ‘Restaurants Per Capita.’