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Greater Philadelphia Cultivates a Hearty Food Production Industry

The Greater Philadelphia region has a host of food production firms that furnish an array of products across the globe.

By Kevin Litwin on January 29, 2014

Greater Philadelphia has a lot on its plate when it comes to food production.

The region is home to an array of internationally known brands as well as distinctive hometown eats that make it special in the food world. Greater Philadelphia’s advantages in transportation assets and an infrastructure help support significant food distribution points.

The region is served by an excellent highway network, and with major shipping ports along the Delaware River, food exports are plentiful. More than 19,000 workers in the region are employed in food-related industries, the third-largest segment of employment in the region’s manufacturing sector. The food industry in the region is well-served by a host of excellent colleges and universities, which provide an abundant source of skilled employees and support the food industry through breakthrough research, technical assistance and technology.

Region Has Biggest Names in Food

The region is home to some of the largest food producers in the world, including Campbell Soup Co., Tastykake, Frankford Candy & Chocolate Co., J&J Snacks, Hatfield Quality Meats, Dietz & Watson and Amoroso Baking.

Over its 70-year history, Herr Foods Inc., located west of Philadelphia, has grown into a national and international seller of snack foods.

“We have a straightforward, hard-working kind of people who make great employees,” says Ed Herr, company president.

Herr says the region’s 100 colleges and universities provide a tremendous resource, both for recruiting and training employees. With access to U.S. 1 and Interstate 95 nearby, the company can get its raw products shipped in and snacks shipped out easily. Herr Foods ships products to 47 states and 40 countries across the globe, and the ports in Philadelphia and Wilmington make shipping faster and easier for this company and a host of others.

Founded in southern New Jersey, Clement Pappas & Co. is the nation’s largest producer of private-label fruit juices and fruit drinks. It furnishes these products to most major supermarkets and retailers across the nation.

“We could have gone anywhere in the country,” says Patricia Nicolino, senior vice president of marketing for Clement Pappas, which is based in Salem County, N.J.  “We have excellent colleges and universities to draw from, and we have a wonderfully diverse workforce.”

Urban Food Niche

Located in a warehouse in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, which is long known for its brewing roots, Philadelphia Brewing Co. produces some of the city’s most popular microbrews.

“We could have built a brewery anywhere, but we wanted to be in the heart of the city,” says Nancy Barton, who co-founded the brewery with her husband. “Even though we are in the city, it is very accessible for the supplies we need and for delivery of our beer across the region.”

The brewery even grows its own hops for one of its seasonal beers and also uses hops from other hops growers in the region.

Philadelphia’s tradition as a cultural melting pot has helped flavor its food manufacturing. Leonetti’s Frozen Foods, the originator of the stromboli and a popular maker of calzones and the city’s trademark cheesesteaks, operates a highly successful business in southwest Philadelphia, where many food companies were founded and still operate. The company’s famous foods can be found in more than 12,500 supermarkets and retailers across the country.

“We have been lobbied by a number of other states to move there, but we have employees who can easily get here to work and want to work here more than anywhere,” says Robert Ippaso, executive director of Leonetti’s.

Streetcars and buses stop in front of their plant, which includes second and third generations of families who work there.

“We have developed a great heritage here that we couldn’t achieve anywhere else,” Ippaso says.

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