Recipe for Success: Food-Related Manufacturing in Henrico

Recipe for Success: Food-Related Manufacturing in Henrico

For Chris Mattera, the Business Development Manager of Sausage Craft, and Brad Hemp, the company’s Head of Sales, the explosive trajectory of their Henrico company began with floor drains.

Back in 2010, Mattera and Hemp were in search of a facility to produce all-natural, clean-label fresh sausages. After an unsuccessful day visiting industrial facilities, they discussed their dwindling options while walking in the Westwood area in Henrico. It was there that they spotted what they’d been looking for: available industrial space with floor drains. From the moment they peeked in the door of 2004 Dabney Road, Mattera and Hemp knew it had the capability to support their aspirations.

Since SausageCraft’s initial success in the local market, the company has expanded its retail placements to major grocery stores, restaurants, and other retailers across the region. Thanks to its central location and market access in the mixed-use Westwood district of Henrico, SausageCraft caught the attention of North Country Smokehouse, which recently acquired the company with plans to expand product availability.

The Henrico Advantage
For SausageCraft and countless other businesses, Henrico provides a strategic location advantage. Thanks to a wide range of industrial real estate – more than 35 million square feet in the County – and the proximity of interstates 95, 64, and 295, distributors have easy access and routing from the manufacturer’s doorstep. As the first metropolitan area south of the northeast corridor, the region offers significantly lower facility and operating costs without sacrificing market access to major northern and international markets.

Henrico County has capitalized on its proximity to higher-cost markets by lowering taxes on food producers and other manufacturing operations. In 2015, the county lowered its machinery and tools (M&T) tax from $1.00 per $100 of assessed value to just $0.30 per $100. Combined with an accelerated depreciation schedule, it’s the lowest effective manufacturing tax rate in Central Virginia.

The low tax rate makes a big difference for Henrico companies like SausageCraft looking to scale their operations. “At a certain point, we were twisting everything by hand,” says Mattera. “But the M&T tax was definitely advantageous. We ended up bringing in a vacuum stuffer with a twist liker, and then a large bowl chopper.”

Great for Businesses Large and Small
Food manufacturing is big business in Henrico County. The same cost advantages enjoyed by small businesses translate to major operating benefits for our manufacturing community.

There’s Mondelez, the global snacking powerhouse responsible for Oreo cookies, Ritz crackers, and more. The company’s Henrico plant has been in operation since 1973 and employs over 500 people. Four years ago, it announced a $40 million expansion.

Directly across the street from Mondelez stands San-J, the Asian product giant and premium soy and tamari sauce manufacturer. It started brewing tamari in Henrico in 1987 due to the county’s similar climate to Japan, advantageous logistics that decrease lead time, and low cost of living that attracts and retains employees. In 2015, it announced a $38 million expansion to be completed by the end of this year, with another phase planned to add additional fermentation tanks to the facility.

Performance Food Group and Ukrops Homestyle Foods have also taken a bite out of Henrico, taking advantage of the region’s talented pool of labor and specialization in food production. Across the Greater Richmond region, there is also Sabra Dipping Company (the largest hummus facility the U.S.), Stone Brewing Company, Tyson Foods, and more.

A Rich Ecosystem
The success and expansions of major food manufacturers, both in Henrico and the Greater Richmond area, has led to an increasingly specialized business community and workforce supporting a growing range of food-related businesses.

Take packaging for example. Henrico alone is home to multiple research & development and production packaging operations, including Dominion Packaging, Temperpack, WestRock (formerly MeadWestvaco), Sealpac International, and more. The region’s talented workforce – which draws on the 25+ nearby colleges and universities – supports a wide range of packaging activities, from materials testing and packaging design to production and warehousing. The talent of the workforce is a proven commodity, as it has helped fuel multiple recent local expansions. This last April, sustainable packaging material company TemperPack announced an expansion plan that will create 141 jobs.

In addition to packaging and food production, the region’s other prominent food-related manufacturing clusters include equipment manufacturing, beverage bottling, cold-storage, and distribution. Notably, Henrico is a hotspot for international food equipment producers. Initially drawn by low-cost electricity, developed infrastructure, and a large existing contingent of international firmsFrans Haas Machinery of America, Hauni, Detectamet, and Bizerba have all found success in Henrico for years.

Undoubtedly, there are a growing number of companies taking advantage of the business benefits Henrico offers in terms of expansive real estate, low operating costs, and superior workforce talent. Whether it’s a small artisanal wholesaler like SausageCraft or a global food maker, Henrico provides businesses with such a robust platform for success that the future can’t help but be delicious.