Located on 20 acres in Milton, N.Y., Brooklyn Bottling Group’s 235,000-square-foot plant has been meeting the beverage company’s own needs since 1936. When the company decided to invest in state-of-the-art packaging and filling equipment, it resolved to expand its capacity, leaving room to contract package for other companies.
Brooklyn Bottling originated as a seltzer bottling company and expanded to bottling soft drinks in 1947. Third-generation owner Eric Miller further expanded the company’s offerings by adding Squeez’r Juices and Teas, Nature’s Own Fresh Pressed Juices, Best Health Sodas and Tropical Fantasy Sodas, Juice Drinks and Spring Water. During the past decade, the company also acquired the franchise rights for a line of leading South and Central American and Caribbean beverages.
The bottler operates in New York’s Hudson Valley in addition to owning warehouse and distribution centers in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Miami and Orlando, Fla., and supplies beverages to more than 23 states.
To handle the demands of its beverage manufacturing needs and those of its clients, Brooklyn Bottling offers four diverse production lines capable of producing PET, can and glass bottled beverages across the cold- and hot-fill beverage categories.
“The advantage we have is all the different capabilities and all the different products that we can produce,” Miller says. “Some medium-sized, smaller players or chains may want to go to one plant where currently they may have to produce three different items at three different plants. Our intent is to be your bottler for virtually all your needs. Whether it’s an energy drink, tea, soda or 100 percent juice, we can produce it for you in glass, cans or PET.
“The other advantage is that we will produce relatively small runs, but we are also capable of bringing in a 2 million case customer,” he adds. “So we’re big enough and small enough to handle any type of client.”
In 2007, the company installed a can line that fills 12-, 16- and 24-ounce cold-fill cans for carbonated soft drinks and hot-fill cans for juices and teas. The can line offers refrigerator case pack capabilities for the 12-ounce size and shrinkwrap trays for 12-, 16- and 24-ounce cans.
Brooklyn Bottling also operates a hot-fill PET line that primarily produces half-gallon multilayer PET bottles for juice and teas. This fall, the company will install equipment on the line to produce a standard 20-ounce PET bottle. The company’s third bottling line is capable of producing 20-ounce, 24-ounce, 1-liter, 2-liter and 2.5-liter cold-fill beverages.
The company’s fourth bottling line is a glass line that is capable of filling 12- and 16-ounce bottles for carbonated soft drinks and sealing them with a crimp finish. The line also is able to hot-fill teas and juices in 16- and 20-ounce glass bottles with lug caps. The line also features shrinkwrap trays in 12-, 20- and 24-packs.
Although Brooklyn Bottling has four lines, two of the lines are multi-use lines giving the company flexibility. For example, while the glass line only bottles in glass, it can bottle both hot-fill and cold-fill beverages. Another line produces beverages in both cans and hot-fill PET. Since the line has three fillers, one filler hot-fills and cold-fills 12-ounce and 16-ounce cans, and one filler produces 24-ounce cans for hot-fill and cold-fill beverages. And the company has a third filler on the line that will hot-fill 20-ounce sizes and 64-ounce PET bottles.
With Brooklyn Bottling’s updates, the company has placed an emphasis on quality equipment, Miller says. In addition to technologically advanced fillers, the company is one of the only small contract packers to offer cost-effective shrink trays produced on high-end Italian machines, which eliminates drop packers, case erectors and shrink tunnels.
The bottler also blows its own PET bottles in sizes ranging from 20 ounces up to 1-, 2- and 2.5-liter bottles. “If a customer has enough volume, we can actually custom blow a bottle,” Miller says.
Self manufacturing its bottles provides Brooklyn Bottling with cost-effective custom bottles, Miller says. And the company will be able to see a return on its investment in about three years, he adds. The bottler currently produces its own proprietary bottle for its Tropical Fantasy Sodas, with its 22-ounce bottle matching its 2.5-liter size for a consistent look at retail. Brooklyn Bottling also manufactures bottles for beverages it produces for some of its retail chain contract packaging clients.
Care is also given to the quality and cleanliness of ingredients used in the bottler’s beverage. For example, the company’s water undergoes triple filtration as well as UV filtration. In addition, in its apple juice processing, Brooklyn Bottling cleans the apples with a special brush tunnel with high-powered water pumps, and also invested in a membrane purification system for the juice.
Brooklyn Bottling controls all of its bottling and packaging processes. The bottler made efficient use of its space by having its PET and can lines be “hybrid” lines. This means that a single packaging line is connected to both a hot-fill and cold-fill filler with one heat exchanger acting as a cooler or warmer depending on what’s being filled.
Seeking to meet additional consumer and customer demands, in 2007 Brooklyn Bottling’s plant received organic certification. In addition, the plant is certified kosher by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis.
With approximately 200,000 square feet of warehouse space, Brooklyn Bottling usually has the ability to store customers’ products for two weeks. The company does plan to break ground at the end of 2009 on a 40,000-square-foot warehouse expansion. The new facility will be able to stack five pallets high, Miller says.
Most clients pick up the product, since Brooklyn Bottling’s eight tractors are busy shuttling its own products. The company’s ability to produce several types of beverages and packages also helps companies with shipping because they can pick up all their beverages from Brooklyn Bottling and mix them on one trailer.
“Some of our larger private label customers, during promotion periods will request us to mix seltzer, apple juice and soda on the same trailer for convenience,” Miller says. “Instead of having to put it into a warehouse and reship it, they can ship directly from here.”
Brooklyn Bottling’s manufacturing, packaging and logistics capabilities make it competitive as a contract manufacturer. “The reality is, in this world, we do not expect to be the lowest-priced packer,” Miller says. “We are not the largest-volume packer, but we consider ourselves a boutique packer.”