Cheerwine’s bottling facility in Charlotte, N.C., which operates under the name of Independent Beverage Corp., supplies distributors for a 300-mile radius. The 450,000-square-foot bottling and warehouse facility is backed by company-owned distribution centers.
Independent Beverage produces about 27 million cases of soft drinks and water a year, which includes Cheerwine, Cadbury brands and its contract manufacturing products. About 100 employees, operating two shifts six days a week, keep production running and warehousing organized.
The facility holds five bottling lines, two of which are can lines and three for plastic bottles. The company’s can lines are able to run up to speeds of 1,100 cans per minute, while the 20-ounce plastic bottle lines operate at speeds up to 600 bottles per minute. One of the plastic lines is dedicated to 2-liter bottles, another line runs half-liter and 20-ounce bottles, and the third, a very flexible line, runs 1-liter, 3-liter and 20-ounce and 32-ounce sports drinks. The company recently invested in new advanced inline monitoring technology to the lines to monitor product attributes.
Cheerwine’s concentrate is produced at the company’s headquarters in Salisbury, N.C., and shipped to the plant in Charlotte, plus other bottling facilities, undergoing quality control testing at both stages. Because of the numerous brands Independent Beverage bottles at the facility, production begins with a full sanitation process to avoid any cross-contamination of beverages.
The company’s bottle supplier labels the bottle before they are sent to the plant. The bottles go through a rinser, and are then conveyed overhead to a filler. Independent Beverage has a main filling room with three lines and an adjoining filling area with two lines.
The company’s lines bottle with carbo cooler systems, equipment which carbonates and cools the soft drink to about 38 degrees. The drinks are filled, capped and then go through the warmer to bring them to ambient temperature before placing the bottles and cans in cartons or pallets.