Newly Released Numbers Offer Positive Sign for Maine’s Food and Beverage Companies

First Increase in Total Food and Beverage Sales Since the Start of the Pandemic

(Portland, ME – May 7, 2021) New data shows the first positive trend in Foodservice since the start of the pandemic. Numbers from Brian Todd Associates of Census Bureau Data shows March 2021 had the first increase (+5.4% over previous year) in Total Food & Beverage Sales since February 2020. 

This was driven mostly by foodservice sales starting to rebound, with March 2021 foodservice sales up over 2020 by 34% YOY. Many within the industry are starting to experience increased sales in the hotel and restaurant sectors and expect foodservice sales to continue to improve as restrictions ease. 

Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE) sought out this data to help their food industry clients determine how the landscape has changed for food and beverage companies since the start of the pandemic.

“Given these trends, we’re excited to add more foodservice industry topics to our Accelerator business training programs this year,” explains Sue Hanson, Program Manager for the Cultivator Food, Beverage & Agriculture Accelerator Program. “We’ve been beefing up our distributor databases and industry trend reports and look forward to helping our companies develop the skills they need to succeed as this important sector rebuilds.”

The data also reveals just how much revenue was lost in 2020. Total U.S. Food & Beverage sales decreased by $60.6 billion from January through December of 2020 versus the same time period in 2019.  As restrictions came into place and restaurants were closing, the foodservice industry took a tremendous hit – down 19.7%, or $152 billion.

The Maine Center for Entrepreneurs’ Food Accelerator ran numerous educational webinars open to all Maine food companies on servicing and succeeding at retail, and worked closely with their 36 food and beverage member companies during the past year, helping many of them make a pivot to the retail channel.  The retail/grocery sector surged in 2020, a response to consumers both stocking their pantries, but also shifting the majority of their consumption to preparing foods at home.  Retail/grocery sales increased over $91.4 billion over the same time period, up 11.8% nationally.

“Many of our Maine companies who primarily service the foodservice sector – particularly those in the seafood industry, had to pivot their sales plans, retool their operations and scale up their capacities to service the retail sector,” explains Janine B. Cary, Manager of the MCE MarketShare Sales program.  Bristol Seafood of Portland, was one of those groups.  Like many in the seafood industry the majority of their distribution was to the foodservice sector. 

“We had just launched our frozen seafood ready-to-cook value added retail line, “My Fish Dish” in supermarkets in 2019, and were slowly, strategically developing our offering.  Suddenly in March/early April 2020, the foodservice market collapsed overnight and we had to really ramp up our production to meet the retail need.  We also created a new “grab and go” line of products since many of the fresh fish cases had closed down in the major supermarkets,” indicates Irene Moon, Bristol Seafood’s VP of Marketing.” “We really leaned on MCE’s guidance for access to national retail market information and help in developing our distribution.”

About MCE’s Food Accelerator Programs:  MCE’s Food Accelerator programs were launched in 2018 (Cultivator) and 2019 (MarketShare) in an effort to help food and beverage companies past the startup stage take their business to the next level of scale up and market expansion.  Over the last three years, MCE has worked with 90 food companies through their Food Accelerator and Top Gun Programs. MCE’s food programs are the first of their kind in Maine and are rather unique in the U.S.

Many food startups get their company to a certain level of revenue and then plateau, with many of them never developing markets outside the State of Maine.  In order to scale-up and expand, companies need a different level of knowledge, infrastructure, and processes.  That is where the Cultivator Accelerator comes in – providing Maine food & beverage companies with access to food industry experts, mentors, and best-practice processes and tools to help them ratchet in on their business and further scale.  The MarketShare Sales Accelerator was designed for food and beverage companies that have larger sales and production capacities, but are in need of market development tools, including: access to market reports, syndicated data, advice on extending their product offerings, and expert guidance on how to expand their distribution and brand presence regionally and nationally across all sales channels.  Both Cultivator and MarketShare are run by Program Managers who have 25+ years real-life food industry working experience.  Member companies also have access to 200+ experienced mentors, including 50+ with direct food industry experience.

FocusMaine is a founding partner of the MCE Food Accelerator programs given their mission to accelerate the growth of existing companies, foster job creation and support the development of key industry sectors for overall economic impact.  See more about FocusMaine’s primary development areas and activities  HERE.

For more information on MCE’s Food Accelerators go to:  https://www.mced.biz/programs


About MCE:

Established in 1997, MCE’s mission is to build and lead a community of growth-oriented businesses in Maine, by providing the training, connections, coaching and mentors they need to commercialize and grow their ideas, products and services so that their companies will drive the growth of Maine’s economy. Over its 23-year history, the organization has accelerated the growth of hundreds of businesses, and established a mentor network of over 200 members.