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This huge city is becoming the unofficial hub for healthy food start-ups


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Photo: Stocksy/Brian Koprowski

You might assume the coolest, most innovative new food start-ups would emerge in indie-heavy cities like Austin, Texas, or Boulder, Colorado—but it turns out the future of food might actually be in one of the biggest metropolitan markets in the country: Chicago.

According to Food Navigator-USA, the Midwestern city is home to 4,500 food and beverage companies, including recently acquired brands like RxBar and Skinny Pop—and the Chicagoland Food and Business Network (CFBN), which launched earlier this year, is giving smaller companies tools to thrive. Because of the members’ collaboration efforts and support to growing companies, Chicago is turning into food incubator of sorts.

“I think that places like Boulder and Austin have been better at telling the story for this Food 2.0, and New York and Silicon Valley, where they have the funding—those look like exciting places. But [Chicago has] a depth of experience than San Francisco and New York would be hard-pressed to match.” —Alan Reed, executive director of CFBN

“It’s not necessarily well-established if you have a great idea in food and beverage that Chicago is a place you’d want to bring it,” said Alan Reed, executive director of CFBN. “I think that places like Boulder and Austin have been better at telling the story for this Food 2.0, and New York and Silicon Valley, where they have the funding—those look like exciting places. But [Chicago has] a depth of experience that San Francisco and New York would be hard-pressed to match.”

So if you have a genius idea, you might want to move to the Windy City to give it life. And, who knows? It might just be the next big thing.

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