City seeks to grow specialty food and beverage industry

The city is hoping to help more local food and beverage manufactures distribute their products on a wider scale, like Brooklyn Brewery.  Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images
The city is hoping to help more local food and beverage manufactures distribute their products on a wider scale, like Brooklyn Brewery.
Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Small businesses making artisanal cheese, locally brewed beer and other specialty foods are cropping up more in the five boroughs, but the City Council is hoping to make operating these local food and beverage firms easier.

Since 2008, the number of specialty food and beverage manufacturers has grown by more than 11 percent, to 1,097 such firms last year, according a Pratt Center study on the industry commissioned by the council and released Tuesday.

“This report shows there’s a big appetite for economic growth in our local food and beverage manufacturing industry,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said in a statement.

The study found the city needs to better support burgeoning small businesses so they can become larger companies and employ more New Yorkers.

The report recommends increasing financial assistance for local businesses seeking to sell their products to larger companies, such as creating a modified loan program for small firms. A Specialty Food Industry Development Corporation, the report says, could address challenges across the sector cooperatively.

The report also suggests creating a co-packing facility for smaller manufacturers to share so that they might fill larger orders and keep production in the city.

“A critical next step for economic growth is for food entrepreneurs to transition from distributing their products themselves to working with other food companies and distributors to get onto more shelves,” Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, said in a statement.

The specialty food and beverage industry employs about 15,000 New Yorkers, officials said.

For the report, the Pratt Center spoke with industry stakeholders, including manufactures, distributors, buyers and food experts.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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