CJ Foods, the US-based affiliate of South Korea’s CJ CheilJedang, has announced plans to invest upward of $500 million to build a 700,000-square-foot Asian food production facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The project—which is the largest in South Dakota state history—is expected to be the largest Asian food production facility in North America and will create more than 600 full-time jobs by 2025. The new plant will produce a variety of Asian-style meals, sides, snacks, and appetizers and feature cutting-edge food production lines, a warehouse and distribution center, shipping and receiving docks, and office space.
Having won a competitive bidding process against other states, government officials anticipate the 140-acre facility will pair with Amazon’s recent $200 million investment to attract more companies to Foundation Park, one of the city’s trademark development sites. CJ Foods—which already operates five Asian-style food plants in California, Ohio, New York, and New Jersey, as well as two in Texas through its subsidiary, Schwan’s Company—selected Sioux Falls due to its central location in the country, skilled workforce, and proximity to technical schools, among other factors. Perhaps most importantly, the company hopes the investment will capitalize on recent demographic and consumer trends that have increased US demand for Asian food.
Asian Americans are one of the fastest-growing demographic group in the United States. In 2019, there were nearly 22 million Asian Americans in the country, an increase of 12% since 2015. This influx has increased both the availability and consumption of Asian food because there are now more Asian grocery store chains and restaurants, as well as a more consistent customer base.
Asian American Population by Year
[schema_chart chart="vertical-bar-chart" data="190" series="Asian American Population" axis="Year" height = "60"] Acknowledgement: Caitlin Brophy
This demographic shift has come as Americans increasingly crave Asian food. From 1999 to 2015, sales of Asian fast food in the United States climbed 135%, far outpacing other cuisines such as Latin and Middle Eastern. More recently, nearly one in three consumers claim Asian food is what they have missed the most from restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this positive outlook, CJ Foods believes the new production facility will allow the company to tap into the massive growth potential of the US Asian food market and build on South Korea’s previous contributions to the local South Dakota economy.
Ryan Woock is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a senior at the University of Michigan.