The non-commercial (which is actually very commercial) food sector covers K-12 schools, colleges, healthcare, and the military. Those are the big ones. This means it’s worth looking at if you’re in the business of anything food related, because your competitors may not be.
Why “non-commercial?” This just means that, unlike grocery stores and restaurants, these are places where food service is secondary, or not the main purpose of a space. But secondary doesn’t mean small—in fact, the non-commercial food industry makes up 20% of the U.S. food industry, and is growing at 3.7% a year (from Technomic, a leading food industry research firm).
Ready for a tour?
K through 12
These are lunch cafeterias, etc., in your local school districts, from kindergarten all the way through high school. It’s food. And it’s bought from someone, a food vendor. Some of these are run by the school district themselves, and some are outsourced to contract management companies like Sodexo and Aramark. Don’t forget private schools– day schools, boarding schools, and prep schools are another segment in the K-12 group.
This is a big one, because many full-time students, especially freshmen and sophomores, live and eat three meals a day on campus. Large colleges are like little cities, with thousands of faculty, administration, and staff eating on campus as well. So, this is a big food marketplace that is non-commercial.
There are around 4,000 colleges in the U.S., from large public colleges to much smaller private colleges. About 40% of these dining operations are outsourced, again, to contract management companies.
Large corporate offices and manufacturers usually have some type of food on the premises. This is partly as a benefit to employees, as the prices are often subsidized by the employer, but really it’s a way to get people to take shorter lunch hours and work later. In any case, it is a large component of the non-commercial foodservice industry. Again, like the others, these dining operations in workplaces might be staffed by the company itself, or more likely the dining services will have been outsourced to a foodservice management company that hires the chefs and other staff, and provides the menus, planning, buying, and more. These are best done by large specialty companies (again, stay tuned for a later post on this topic). You could include large government departments and offices in this category as well.
Large hospitals–actually, come to think of it, all hospitals–have some kind of a cafeteria on premises. And you know they have some other kind of food operation, because they’ve got to provide food to all the patients staying in the hospital. Plus, they’ve got an army of staff who are in the place 24/7 to take care of the patients, and they’ve got to eat too, right? Not just doctors, but nurses, technicians, and all the other support staff who run the place. So hospitals are another great market for the right food product or service.
The military is a place where lots and lots of hungry people are going to be eating. Large military bases have family housing, so there’s some home cooking happening. But mostly our servicemen and women are eating communally in foodservice operations. Think of what the budget is for this marketplace (department of defense). Again, a lot of this is contract is managed by outsourced companies using their own food supply chains.
There are quite a few other government operations where foodservice occurs, but a lot of this category falls into prisons. Other than commodity food ingredients suppliers, we don’t think this is a major opportunity (for more research on this, watch Netflix’s ‘Orange is the New Black’)!
OK, this is something important to think about. These non-commercial markets are actually VERY commercial and there is a lot of food and money moving through these supply chains. So as a food manufacturer, supplier, grower, baker, or other maker or seller of food related products and services, maybe you’ll find this to be of some interest. We’ll be writing more articles on related topics, such as the Contract Management companies, the distributors, and the different food service trade shows and conferences that support these different marketplaces soon, so stay tuned!