You'd never know the economy is in a slump from the state of the food industry. Specialty food sales in the U.S. alone grew 13 percent to $85 billion in 2012. And Americans consumed a record $34 billion worth of wine last year.
If you're at all into food (I mean, who isn't?) and looking for a business, industry, or career to sink your teeth into, look no further. Here are 10 reasons that food isn't just the way to your heart; it's the way to your wallet, too.
Venture capital flowing into food tech. Venture capitalists poured $350 million into food tech companies last year, an increase of 7.6 percent over 2011, according to research firm CB Insights. Not only that, but the number of deals increased by 37 percent, including robust activity in international markets.
Gourmet to go. Just because there's growing demand for healthy and tasty food doesn't mean people have the ability or the time to make it or eat out all the time. There's huge and growing demand for personal chefs, party chefs, specialty caterers, and thousands of gourmet and pre-made food websites. If you've got a kitchen and a cool recipe, you can make it and sell it.
Food franchises. If you wanted to own a food franchise business, you used to be limited to the likes of McDonald's, Subway, and Pizza Hut. Not that that's a bad thing, but these days, the choices are virtually limitless, from Baja Fresh to Ben & Jerry's. While restaurants like P.F. Chang's and Cheesecake Factory don't franchise domestically, both companies are looking for international partners to license.
Diversity. America has always been a melting pot, but we didn't always eat that way. If you grew up on the East Coast in the 60s or 70s, chances are you never heard of Mexican or Thai food. That's all changed now and it's opened the door for family-owned restaurants that specialize in all sorts of ethnic cuisines.
TV for Foodies. We've come a long way from Julia Child and Galloping Gourmet Graham Kerr. With blockbuster hits like Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, and Iron Chef America, food TV has turned into a booming media business. The competition is fierce but the opportunity is there for anyone to become the next Bobby Flay or Rachael Ray.
Health restricted diets. There was a time when the only diet foods you'd see were sugar-free foods for diabetics. Now, we have lactose and gluten-free foods and, the more we discover about how what we put in our bodies affects our health, the more fragmented our food choices will become. And choice spells opportunity.
Demand for natural and organic foods. Besides all the Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and dozens of other markets specializing in natural and organic foods, there are thousands of farmer's markets popping up in cities big and small across the nation.
Sustainable and safe agriculture. As an entire industry retools to become more animal and environmentally friendly, and to improve the healthfulness and safety of our food supply, opportunities abound throughout the food chain.
Packaging and cold transport. Ever wonder how all that fresh and frozen food gets to your grocer without spoiling? New techniques in flash freezing and fresh and frozen food packaging and transport have enabled huge and growing industries.
New world wine, crafted beer, premium liquor. America's wine industry is booming and not just in California, either. Wine making has popped up in nearly every state, even Texas and Alaska. Not only that, but you can start small by growing grapes and selling them or buying the grapes and trying your hand as a wine maker. Likewise, demand for specialty brews and premium liquors has never been better.