Virginia Food Producers
When we think of eating local, it’s easy to focus on small restaurants and family farms. On a recent tour sponsored by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), I was reminded of larger Virginia-based businesses that reach far beyond our borders.
When we think of eating local, it’s easy to focus on small restaurants and family farms. On a recent tour sponsored by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), I was reminded of larger Virginia-based businesses that reach far beyond our borders. Supporting them supports locals, from the farmers who grow the crops and manage the livestock to employees of food processing plants.
According to the VEDP, Virginia’s food processing industry includes more than 44,000 farms, employs more than 35,000 people and has a direct economic output of $25.9 billion.
Familiar brand names on store shelves include Boar’s Head, Hershey, Kraft, Perdue, Tyson, Smithfield, Smucker’s, Mr. Peanut, Route 11 Potato Chips and San-J.
Four of the businesses we visited on the tour create food products that you can find around town.
Sabra Dipping Co., Chesterfield
You’re probably already familiar with Sabra’s hummus, a healthy source of protein.
The Virginia plant is in fact the largest hummus factory in the world, but the company has added other nutritious products to its “flavors of the world” lineup, including Sabra Spreads and dips (tasty condiments without the fat of mayonnaise), guacamole (including a veggie guac) and salsa.
This environmentally conscious company engages with the local community, including the Plants with a Purpose initiative, which promotes nutrition and culinary education programming in collaboration with Renew Richmond, a nonprofit dedicated to urban agriculture in underserved communities.
Sabra products are available at stores throughout the area.
Wanchese Fish Co., Suffolk
This family-owned fish-processing company began in 1936 in Wanchese, North Carolina, and moved to Virginia in the late 1990s. Now owned by the Cooke family (Cooke Seafood USA), the vertically integrated business owns fishing vessels, aquaculture operations and processing plants worldwide.
Since Wanchese controls the scallops, crab, shrimp, oysters and other seafood products from the “catch” through operations at its state-of-the-art processing plant, it boasts maximum “traceability” – always knowing where each piece of seafood came from. This water-to-package control also results in quicker processing, thus a longer shelf life.
Eighty percent of Wanchese seafood is sold to restaurants and other food service entities.
Massimo Zanetti Coffee, Suffolk
You might not realize that you’ve had coffee roasted in Suffolk, but chances are, you’ve had at least one of their private-label brands: Dunkin’ Donuts, Wawa, Krispy Kreme, Chase & Sanborn and Chock full o’Nuts. Headquartered in Italy, MZB-USA farms coffee in Hawaii, making it the only vertically integrated coffee company in the nation. The Virginia facility processes more than three million bags of green coffee each year.
One recent accomplishment is the PürPod100, a 100 percent compostable Keurig-style coffee pod (see MZB-USA.com/compostability/). That’s huge, because the 9.8 billion plastic K-Cups that are sold annually (2014 figures) are enough to circle the earth 12 times.
Look for the Suffolk-roasted coffee brands on many local grocery store shelves, including compostable pods from Hill Bros. and Chock full o’Nuts.
Shenandoah Growers, Harrisonburg
What’s aromatic, tickles your palate with pure taste and can improve any meal? Why, fresh herbs, of course! Shenandoah Growers raises these divine, organic, epicurean plants, packaging cut herbs in clamshell packaging and live plants in small pots, for extended shelf life and repotting.
Even more impressive than the product is the process. This locally raised business has perfected their methods to include a proprietary potting blend, nutrient rooms with organic nitrogen, a closed-loop watering system, greenhouse effects that emulate nature, LED growing rooms that utilize vertical space, and other highly efficient processes.
You can find Shenandoah Growers rosemary, mint, basil, dill and a multitude of other fresh herbs on local grocers’ shelves. Your next meal will be glad you did.