Refresco
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From Conception to Consumption: Innovative Beverage Solutions

Oct. 29, 2020
In the heart of cola country, this concentrate manufacturing facility delivers unmatched quality and service thanks to a unique philosophy on comprehensive beverage solutions.

Refresco, an innovative international beverage solutions provider, coined the company tag line, “Our drinks on every table.” Living up to this motto has translated into a unique approach to beverage solutions, with product offerings in most categories and key partnerships with retailers and A-brands. At the heart of this robust organization is the company’s Columbus, GA facility, where Refresco’s critical development and recipe formulation work takes place. Out of that Columbus facility has emerged Refresco’s “conception to consumption” model of beverage solutions, and with it, a shift in the industry in terms of what companies looking to market beverages can expect from their partner “flavor houses,” and concentrate and manufacturing facilities.

Refresco purchased the Columbus plant in 2019, as part of its overall growth strategy, but the facility has been a key player in the beverage industry for over a century prior to this acquisition. Formerly a Cott Beverages, and, previous to that a Royal Crown Cola manufacturing facility, the Columbus site is an inextricable part of the history of cola development and production in Georgia, and thus of the evolving beverage industry at large. The addition of the Columbus facility to Refresco’s overall organization has been a critical component in the industry-leading shift towards comprehensive beverage solutions.

Beverage Solutions From Start to finish

The unique and innovative approach that enables Refresco’s growth and leadership in the beverage solutions space is its “conception to consumption” model. Under this framework, the Columbus facility is involved in every single step that a beverage takes, from a simple product concept, all the way to the consumer’s table. The facility undertakes recipe development, ingredient vetting, testing, and validation of the products as part of the initial phase of the project. Once recipes are finalized, the facility then determines and supplies nutritional facts and label claims to customers, as well as ensuring regulatory adherence, regulatory certificates (i.e. Kosher, organic, non-GMO, etc.), and quality assurance where the formulation is concerned.

In this way, the facility undertakes the standard tasks of a concentrate manufacturer, engaging in the development of flavor, aroma, and visual profiles as well as the production of the concentrates. The Columbus facility employs multi-disciplined teams to ensure ingredient quality and to calculate nutritional and claims information for products’ labels. Quality Assurance teams ensure that products are both manufactured to specifications and are acceptable against controls. The facility then produces concentrates on a large scale and sends them to other Refresco plants, retailers or A-brands, which in turn manufacture and ship beverages to or on behalf of customers.

This is not, however, the end of the Columbus concentrate manufacturing facility’s involvement. The site remains involved even once the beverages are on the consumer’s table through their Consumer Affairs department, which receives and addresses comments, questions, and concerns directly from consumers.

“Unlike many other independent bottlers, Refresco is capable of not just providing finished beverage, but of developing products, vetting ingredients, ensuring regulatory adherence, ensuring quality, performing key stability testing, and even providing ongoing support and quality assurance for end customers,” said Sam Khoury, VP Regulatory, QA, and Technical Affairs at Refresco. “Our facility in Columbus, Georgia has become the heart of our ‘conception to consumption’ service, and really is changing the game for what customers can expect from a comprehensive beverage solution provider.”

Since purchasing the Columbus plant in 2019, Refresco has invested in the facility, including in its sensory testing and shelf stability laboratories, which are critical to ensuring upmost quality products for customers. These actions towards ensuring high levels of confidence are part of what makes the “conception to consumption” model possible.

“Most flavor houses only deal with compounded flavors and do not provide the myriad of ancillary services for the many other critical steps associated with developing a successful product that it is ready to go to market,” David Ragland, Site Director, added. “We’re developing a new model for comprehensive beverage solutions, so that our customers, who market and sell the product, have confidence knowing that they have participated in a very collaborative and innovative process.”

Conception to Consumption Model in Action

One well-known A-brand wanted to produce an alcoholic ready-to-drink beverage for launch at high volumes in the Canadian market. Though the company initially contacted Refresco seeking only toll manufacturing, as they might expect from a standard beverage manufacturer, they ultimately opted for the full turn-key approach to product development that Refresco offers. Once launched, the year one volumes for the product reached $50 million in sales revenue at retail. This launch is just one example of how the innovative “conception to consumption” model translates into success for Refresco and its customers.

Environmental and Community Impacts

The benefits of having the Columbus research and innovation capabilities as an integral part of the rest of the business aren’t restricted to product success, either, due to Refresco’s company-wide focus on sustainability. Refresco’s comprehensive solutions model enables the company to extend its sustainable approaches to “Planet, Products, and People” across the entirety of the production supply chain. This translates into critical benefits in all three sustainable focus areas. Refresco manages these leading-edge sustainability efforts on a global scale, coordinated through the work of a dedicated company’s Group Sustainability.

Refresco’s efforts towards sustainability for the planet focuses on minimizing the impact of the company’s operations on the environment. In practice, this means that the company works towards minimizing energy usage, water usage, and waste onsite and in transport throughout the production process. For example, their sizable production footprint allows for shorter trucking routes, thus reducing fuel consumption. The company’s efforts towards creating sustainable products, meanwhile, entail a focus on minimizing the impact of its products on the environment. In practice, this means sustainability in sourcing for both products and packaging. Refresco is working towards reducing material usage and increasing recyclability, as well as introducing greater traceability along the value chain while moving towards 100% sustainable sourcing over the next several years. As a full-service beverage solutions provider, Refresco is more able to achieve these goals, since the company has greater control over each aspect of product development, production, packaging, and shipping.

Finally, sustainability efforts for the company’s people translates into a focus on employees and local communities. The Columbus facility’s growth since 2019, and the impact it has had on the local community, is a prime example of this sustainability goal. In only one year, Refresco has invested significantly in the Columbus plant and R&D resources, continuing to employ the site’s 120 employees and planning continued investments that will expand the workforce upwards of 50% over the next two years. In Columbus, Refresco and its employees support the local public schools, state university, and homeless services non-profit. During the initial wave of the COVID-19 crisis, the company converted some of its manufacturing capacity to produce hand sanitizer and donated much of its production to local organizations in need like hospitals, hospices, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. This is not an isolated instance among the organization’s more than 60 facilities across North America and Europe. Refresco works hard to ensure a positive impact on the people touched by operations across the value chain.

Conclusion

Refresco is working to change how the world consumes beverages, relying on both a storied past at the heart of the beverage industry and innovations for the present and future. The company’s Columbus facility is at the heart of the innovative conception to consumption model, which makes possible both unmatched, comprehensive beverage services, and leading-edge sustainability efforts.