2020: Record year for M&A in the food & drink sector

2020 broke records again for the number of food and drink transactions around the world, with 831 registered on the Zenith Global mergers and acquisitions database, an average of 16 each week.

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The total is 42 more than in 2019 and 40% higher than five years ago. The number has risen every year since a dip in 2013. Funding rounds for early stage businesses have become an increasingly important element.

The most active sectors were ingredients on 80, soft drinks on 50, snacks on 49, dairy on 46 and packaging on 41.  Spirits on 35 were ahead of wine on 25 and beer on 21.

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The top 15 sectors saw some significant changes in 2020.  Meat-free seared into 9th place on 27, ahead of meat at 10th on 27.  Water drinks surged in at 11th on 26 and plant-based shot up to 14th on 22.  In contrast, general food, equipment and CBD dropped out of the rankings.

The combination of meat-free (29) with plant-based (22) and dairy-free (18), totalling 69, would make free-from the second biggest category overall.  Water drinks (26) and water dispense (14), when taken together at 40, would come 6th.

Other key emerging categories were food delivery on 20 and vertical farming on 14.

The biggest increases were for meat-free (+18), nutrition (+16), ingredients (+15), food delivery (+14), water drinks (+14), snacks (+12) and plant-based (+10).  Several of the main categories saw declines, led by beer (-17), dairy (-17), packaging (-8) and soft drinks (-7).

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