Sunday, January 16, 2022

It’s True! The Nation Enjoys Salmon, Crab Cakes, and Tuna Straight Out of Heath, Ohio


It was announced recently:  The nation’s first plant-based salmon burger is “caught” right here in the heart of Licking County.  Salmon is just the latest plant-based seafood option among many under brand name Good Catch created by a manufacturer who produces one-of-a-kind products in the Port Authority’s industrial park.

This international-worthy news has quietly been building up locally in Central Licking County for a few years now. Seizing upon an international trend, Gathered Foods markets salmon, tuna, crabcakes, fish sticks, and other Good Catch seafood products aided by a clean new building and an able workforce.  Order your first plant-based seafood at today.

It’s true!  Plant-based food is a thing in Licking County.  Big time.

A British-Chinese joint venture was first.  GB Food and Gushen America found a new industrial building built on speculation by the Port Authority and started up in 2017.  GB expanded in 2018 and combined with Gathered Food’s new location to achieve a total manufacturing capability six times bigger by 2019.  Nature’s One followed in 2020 and KeHo Foods in 2021.

Plant-based food has indeed found Heath to be a good home.  In four short years, the numbers went from zero to five companies and from no buildings to five buildings combined with over 223,000 sq.ft. under roof.

It’s been quite a trend.  Plant-based food produced and distributed out of Heath now includes a wide variety of ingredients (soy protein crisps and non-GMO soy isolates) to consumer products (protein bars, organic baby formula, and some amazing tasting, chef-inspired seafood without fish in it). 

Plant-based foods are trendy in their own right.  The pandemic has proven the value of protein-rich, shelf-stable options.  The Plant Based Foods Association reports, in 2020, that 57% of American households brought some plant-based food into their kitchens. It’s the faster growing segment of the growing food industry, by almost double.

The trend isn’t left to just vegans and vegetarians.  According to the PBFA 98% of plant-based buyers also buy animal meat. Fully 79% of Millennials and Generation Z eat plant-based foods. 

Licking County is a place for this growing industry sector to thrive too.

The recipe for plant-based food industry success is the same recipe for manufacturing success.  Mix manufacturing culture, an available manufacturing workforce, and manufacturing-focused educational infrastructure. Fold in a pipeline of future manufacturing workers, streamlined planning processes, smart incentives, and ready-to-go sites and buildings. 

The community is building on these trends.  There’s a Southgate Corporation 65,000 sq. ft. new spec building available right now which is well-suited for food production. A clean, new speculative building is being built next door to these other producers by the Port Authority.  Before Summer, another 30,000 sq. ft. building will be available for a new tenant. 

C-TEC is gearing up pre-employment training specifically for the food industry workforce. STEM learning efforts at The Works are seizing upon the trend too with a recognition that plant-based food is very much a mix of science and technology.

I’ll predict our community’s oversized role in the plant-based food industry will continue into 2022 and beyond.


This development column is a regular column in The Advocate.

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