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Westrock Officially Opens 570,000-SF Facility in Conway

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Westrock Coffee Co. of Little Rock held the grand opening of its new 570,000-SF facility in Conway on Thursday. 

The $315 million investment is dedicated to developing, producing and distributing coffee and ready-to-drink (RTD) products.

The facility, which can grind 15,000 pounds of coffee an hour, is the most efficient and consistent operation of its kind, said Cedric Smith, senior vice president of liquid manufacturing at Westrock. This is largely because every stage of production will now be managed under one roof.

Smith emphasized the vertical integration of the facility, where green coffee beans are tested, roasted, ground and brewed in house. Canning and bottling of RTD products are also done in the facility. This allows Westrock to oversee all operations throughout the entire process, Smith said. 

The current canning line can produce 1,600 cans a minute and change cans in 30 minutes, a speed that is “basically unheard of” in the industry, Smith said. 

Also inside the building is a certified Q Grader, a professional skilled in the evaluation of green coffee, who tastes each lot of beans that Westrock roasts for consistency, along with spot tests of products throughout the creation. This ensures the coffee tastes and smells the same from origin to warehouse to can, Smith explained.

Every product made in the facility is first tested through an on-site research and development lab. The lab’s equipment models Westrock’s full-scale operations, which aims to ensure a seamless transition from concept to commercial production. The lab also researches new products, such as cold brew or espresso-based drinks.  

Smith said the facility would help address inflationary pressures by ensuring a streamlined production process. 

“We can cost it at the rate based on how we produce and the technology we have in house,” Smith said. “Our goal is to be the brand behind the brand, and to make certain we are the best choice. We don’t just want to have the best technology, we [want to be] able to give the best prices to our customers. We want them not only for that first product, but to return over and over again.”

The company delivered its first product from its multi-service bottle line in April.

Currently, the facility is only at 75% capacity, leaving around $100 million to expand operations over the next 12 months. The building is already fitted for an additional four to six packaging lines.

This will allow production to continue on the existing lines while the new ones are added, Smith said. Westrock put “more money upfront” so that the facility could continue operating while more equipment is installed.

There are 170 employees working on-site right now, but at capacity, the facility could employ up to 900 people.

An additional 530,000-SF warehouse and distribution center has been completed two miles from the facility in Conway, which aims to maintain efficient product distribution, transportation times and flow of materials and finished goods. 

Outside of the massive production capabilities, the main draw of the facility is state-of-the-art equipment, technology and robotics. Production is almost fully automated. 

“The opening of the Conway facility marks a critical milestone for Westrock Coffee,” Scott Ford, CEO and co-founder of Westrock, said in a press release. “In line with our commitment as a world leader in beverage innovation, today we launch the largest integrated beverage facility in the Americas.”

Westrock (Nasdaq: WEST) reported a net loss of $23.7 million in the first quarter, a wider loss than the $4.3 million it posted in the same quarter in 2023. The company said the new plant should help improve financial results.

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