Coca-Cola will sell its Waco juice plant to Refresco, a worldwide beverage producer, but employment locally will change little if any.
Refresco, which calls itself the world’s largest independent bottler for retailers and major brands such as Coca-Cola, will serve as a “strategic third-party contract manufacturer” for the soft drink giant that has owned and operated the Minute Maid plant at Imperial and Hewitt drives since 1994.
Coca-Cola makes there Minute Maid juices, Powerade, Gold Peak Tea and juice products carrying the “Simply” name, said Kris Collins, senior vice president for economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce.
Now Refresco will operate the plant, primarily to serve Coca-Cola’s needs. It remains unclear if Refresco will fill orders for other clients there. The Refresco website says it has the capability to make carbonated beverages, energy and sports drinks, juices, teas, waters and alcoholic beverages.
“It is our understanding Refresco will have additional capacity for other brands, which we hope means new jobs and future investment,” Collins said.
Refresco, in an email, said it is acquiring other Coca-Cola hot-fill operations in Paw Paw, Michigan, and in Truesdale, Missouri, as it continues its “buy-and-build” strategy. The three facilities employ 1,000 people between them, and though company spokesperson Nicole McDonald would not get specific about Waco staffing levels, she said “the acquisition provides natural continuity to the staff as Refresco will continue to operate the production sites.”
Pending regulatory approval, Refresco will prepare to integrate the sites and plant employees into Refresco North America, according to a press release.
The Tribune-Herald in 2018 reported that Coca-Cola and Fairlife, a Coca-Cola owned maker of milk products, would spend a combined $25 million to install “a filling line for dairy beverages.” The companies received tax breaks from Waco and McLennan County, which stipulated Coca-Cola retain the 331 employees then working at the plant and hire 10 more.
“I believe they employ more than that now,” Collins said.
“With manufacturing and supply chain being at the heart of our business, the acquisition of three Coca-Cola facilities in the US is another step forward in our growth strategy,” Refresco CEO Hans Roelofs said in the press release.
Refresco North America COO Brad Goist said, “I am convinced that our Retail and A-brand customers across North America will be able to benefit from our extended capabilities and broadened geographical footprint.”
Refresco, corporately based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, operates 60 plants in 12 countries and employs more than 10,000 people, according to its website.
“Our people receive the attention, support and opportunities they deserve, whatever level and whichever department they are working in,” the site says.
Coca-Cola has been operating the facility at Hewitt and Imperial drives since 1994, when it bought the former Levi Strauss plant for $8.8 million and spent $20 million reconfiguring the interior and installing equipment.