Companies producing some of the top-selling food and beverage brands on the shelves are choosing Lehigh Valley to make their products. In early 2014, Ocean Spray will open a new 215,000-square-foot bottling facility in Upper Macungie Township, along with a facility in Weisenberg Township to distribute Ocean Spray products produced in the region.
The bottling facility, which is moving to the Lehigh Valley from New Jersey, will serve as the hub for Ocean Spray's Northeast operations, producing about 40 percent of its beverage volume. The bottling and distribution operations combined will employ more than 250.
Not only was Ocean Spray impressed by the Valley's skilled workforce, company leaders also cited lower taxes, utility rates and transportation costs as key reasons for locating in the region.
Ocean Spray is one of many food and beverage companies moving to Lehigh Valley. Bimbo Bakeries USA is opening a $75 million bakery in Upper Macungie Township in early 2014 to produce bread and buns for distribution throughout the Northeast. Bimbo Bakeries, whose brands include Arnold, Entenmann's, Sara Lee, Stroehmann and Thomas’ English Muffins, will employ 100 at its new Lehigh Valley facility.
Proximity from Lehigh Valley to East Coast markets has also been a positive factor for Niagara Drinking Water and Nestle Waters, both of which operate bottling plants in Lehigh County. And it's why companies like Kraft Foods and Kellogg’s ship many of their products from distribution centers located here.
Coca-Cola conducts business at two facilities in the region – a Coca-Cola Refreshments syrup plant in Allentown and a Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of of the Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem.
“We produce about 53 million gallons annually of food-service syrup to distribute along the East Coast, from the northern portions of North Carolina up to Maine,” says Tim Fischbach, Coca-Cola Lehigh Valley Syrup Plant manager. “The syrup supports the fountain drink aspect of our business, and we have recently installed noncarbonated assembly lines to make Powerade, vitaminwater and Fuze.”
Fischbach credits low energy costs, skilled workforce and proximity to major East Coast markets as reasons why the company has remained in Lehigh Valley.
“We have been a part of this region’s community and economy since 1997,” he says. “Our 145 employees have good jobs and enjoy a good quality of life.”
At the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of the Lehigh Valley in Bethlehem, vice president and general manager Joe Brake points out that Coca-Cola has made investments as a top employer and corporate citizen within the community.
“The Lehigh Valley IronPigs is the Minor League Baseball Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, and we purchased the naming rights to Coca-Cola Park where the IronPigs play in Allentown,” Brake says. “It is the first sports venue in the U.S. to have Coca-Cola in its name, and Forbes ranks the IronPigs as the second most valuable franchise in Minor League Baseball. It’s just one of many ways that Coca-Cola plays a part in the continuing growth of Lehigh Valley.”
A Thriving Mix
Other food and beverage companies thriving in the region include Ice River Springs Water Co., which operates a bottling and manufacturing facility in an existing 100,000-square-foot building in Hanover Township and is creating up to 50 jobs over the next three years. Ice River Springs also makes the bottles and caps that package its products, using recycled plastic for about 50 percent of its bottles.
A new producer calling the Lehigh Valley home is Freshpet, a pet food company that moved into a renovated building in Hanover Township. The company, known for using no preservatives and producing slightly processed food with meats and vegetables as the main ingredients, employs 100 employees at its Lehigh Valley plant. Freshpet leaders expect the move to grow the company's annual sales by $200 million, up from its current $50 million.
The Boston Beer Company has also been investing millions of dollars in its facility in the Breinigsville section of the Upper Macungie Township. As a result, the company – whose beer products include Samuel Adams – now produces two-thirds of all its beer in Lehigh Valley.