The U.S. food industry is estimated to be worth about $1.157 trillion. According to the USDA, this accounted for roughly 5.4% to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021. The figure includes the output of America’s farms, which contributed about 0.7% of U.S. GDP. Sectors related to agriculture rely on agricultural inputs to contribute added value to the economy, making the overall contribution of agriculture to GDP larger than 0.7%. The food industry also provided 10.5% of U.S. employment. Additionally, expenditures on food accounted for 12.8% of U.S. households’ spending in 2022

So the food industry plays a significant role in the U.S. economy, contributing to both GDP and employment. It is a major driver of the economy, interlinking complex supply and distribution chains in a sector filled with mammoth corporations and small producers. Capturing just how expansive food-focused businesses have grown illustrates the aggregate influence food wields not just on family dinner tables but also wider communities and global markets.

Revenues are growing

Overall industry revenues approached $2.4 trillion in 2021. There’s a difference between revenues and GDP value. First off, revenues are estimates and they refer to the total income generated by a business or sector from its operations, typically from the sale of goods and services, before any expenses are deducted. GDP (Gross Domestic Product) value, in contrast, is a broader economic measure representing the total monetary value of all goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period. GDP value reflects the overall economic activity and health of a country, while revenues are specific to individual businesses or sectors and their operational performance. By either metric the food industry in the US is a large and important economic driver.

Here are some 2021 revenue estimates when dividing the industry into different sectors, including food production/agriculture, food manufacturing/processing, food retail, and food service.

  • Food/beverage processing amasses the largest revenue share, with manufactured foods, ingredients, and beverages totaling roughly $850 billion based on estimates from the Consumer Brands Association. Combined with tobacco products, analysts project that food manufacturing revenues will approach $1.1 trillion by 2027.
  • Agriculture and livestock contribute approximately $362 billion to annual GDP through farms and ranches harvesting staples from corn to cattle nationwide (USDA). Factoring in agrichemicals, machinery and other ag-related industries pushes this figure to over $500 billion, reports Statista.
  • Food retail, which includes supermarkets and other food stores, is also a significant part of the industry which added about $695 billion to GDP in 2021 according to FMI, The Food Industry Association. Other retail formats such as general merchandise chains, convenience stores, warehouse clubs and online grocery operations have helped boost the overall food retail market size to over $800 billion according to estimates,
  • The food service sector, which includes restaurants, catering, and other food establishments, is also a major contributor to the industry. Including accommodation and other food service businesses sales from serving prepared meals and snacks generate approximately $900 billion annually. This equates to 4% of national GDP (USDA). Factoring in healthcare food service at schools, hospitals and care facilities pushes estimates above $1 trillion.

Overall, the food industry in the US is a large and important sector of the economy, providing jobs and economic opportunities for many people, and supplying the country and the world with food products.

The industry is also a major supplier of jobs. From farm equipment makers and food scientists to restaurant workers and shelf stockers, the food sector directly or indirectly supports 1 in 8 U.S. jobs according to researchers, exemplifying its role as a national jobs engine.

Some Resources:

Ag and Food Sectors and the Economy from the USDA

Fast Food and Ag facts from AFBF

Statista’s Food in the U.S. Page