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Lehigh Valley’s Water Quality Vital to Food and Beverage Companies

Companies like Coca-Cola and Ocean Spray among others that rely on the quality of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania’s water supply in their processing plants.

2016 Food Processing
“Most industrial regions have to chemically treat their water supply to make it pure enough for their uses, but we don’t,” says Joseph Brake, vice president and general manager of Bethlehem, Pa.-based Coca-Cola Bottling of the Lehigh Valley.

For food and beverage companies, water is vital, and the beverage maker had such confidence in the Lehigh Valley’s water purity that it invested $46 million in 2012 to expand its Coca-Cola Refreshments syrup plant in Upper Macungie Township. This allowed Coca-Cola to add several new manufacturing lines, including Powerade, Vitaminwater, and Fuze, and to boost employment.

“Our local bottling plant undergoes three audits for environmental compliance, safety, and quality,” Brake says. “We must meet or exceed Coca-Cola’s standards. The corporation can order a shutdown of our plant to make adjustments, but that has never happened to us. Our plant’s record has been exemplary for the 98 years we have been in operation.”

While some communities might not consider a wastewater treatment plant an “attraction,” a pre-treatment plant built in the 1990s in Upper Macungie Township is a huge draw for food and beverage makers. The plant cleans waste before it enters local sewer lines, saving these industries the high cost of building and operating their own pre-treatment facilities.

When Ocean Spray sought to build a high-volume processing plant for its brand-name line of juices and drinks, it also chose Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. In 2014, the Massachusetts-based cooperative cut the ribbon on a $110 million, 315,000-square-foot bottling facility in Upper Macungie Township. Besides its size and capacity, the plant incorporates a variety of state-of-the-art innovations, including an ultra-pure, highly secure blending room.

“About 40 percent of what Ocean Spray makes and sells passes through our facility,” says Tim Haggerty, plant director. The new facility replaced Ocean Spray’s first processing plant — an outdated facility in Bordentown, N.J., that could no longer meet production requirements.

Ocean Spray and Coca-Cola have plenty of company in the Lehigh Valley including Bimbo Bakeries, the U.S. arm of Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo and the corporate parent for such iconic American brands as Entenmann’s, Thomas’, Arnold, and Sara Lee, among others. And across the street from Ocean Spray’s Macungie Township plant is Nestle Waters — a firm whose very name reflects one of the major reasons why so many food and beverage makers call the Lehigh Valley home: water.
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