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Westrock Coffee expanding Conway facility as part of $100 million investment

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Westrock Coffee
Westrock Coffee says it is working to expand production and will move into a Conway plant twice as large as its current facility there.

Arkansas-based Westrock Coffee Co. announced Thursday it will expand operations with a facility in Conway. When fully built, the plant will be the largest facility of its type in the U.S., the company said.

The plant will move into the closed 524,000 square-foot Kimberly-Clark factory in Conway.

In addition, Westrock said it is expanding its manufacturing capacity in Concord, N.C., and will launch operations in Malaysia to serve its rapidly-growing demand in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions.

“We are expanding our finished product offerings, adding end beverage packaging solutions, and expanding our geographic reach to meet our growing customer demand,” said Scott Ford, CEO and co-founder of Westrock Coffee. Ford was the CEO of Little Rock-based telecom giant Alltel, which sold to Verizon over a decade ago.

“Our growth benefits everyone at Westrock Coffee — from our global customers and farmer partners to our current and future employees and the communities where they live. These facility expansion announcements provide further evidence that we are well on our way to accomplishing our mission of building and efficiently operating the preeminent integrated coffee, tea, and extract supply chain in the world, to enhance the lives of our farmer partners and fuel the success of the customers that we serve,” Ford added.

“Westrock Coffee Company provides the drink that fuels many Arkansans in the workplace, and others all around the world,” Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “The expansion into Conway by repurposing this facility and providing new jobs reflects the growth of Westrock and the fact that Arkansas is a dynamic and welcoming place to do business.”

In Conway, Westrock will develop, produce and distribute its coffee, tea, and ready-to-drink (RTD) products. The location will utilize state-of-the-art equipment, including advanced robotics, specifically designed to efficiently manufacture and package a wide range of beverages, such as canned or bottled cold brew coffees, lattes, assorted teas, and juice-based products as well as single-serve coffee cups.

The space will also incorporate a premiere product development lab, enabling Westrock Coffee to create, test, and produce new beverage solutions.

The new Conway location will require a variety of skilled jobs. Westrock said it would initially hire 50 workers in phase one of the build-out, then grow to approximately 250 positions. The company said many of the jobs needed to operate the facility will require a significantly advanced and skilled workforce, and those salaries are expected to top $100,000 per year.

Conway will be an addition to the company’s already established presence in Arkansas which has corporate offices in Little Rock and a manufacturing facility in North Little Rock.

In North Carolina, Westrock is expanding it Commercial Park location in Concord. The expansion will be an extract manufacturing facility to allow Westrock Coffee to respond to “unprecedented growth due to burgeoning customer demand” for its extract, tea, and herbal products.

The expansion will also include modernizing its current manufacturing and packaging process for bottled products. Upgrades to the Concord facility should be complete by the end of 2022.

“We have seen strong product demand and customer growth over the past year and our expansion puts us at the forefront of providing beverage solutions for any type of business in any form of finished packaging. This progress is a testament to every person who plays a role in our day-to-day operations,” said Ford.

Westrock acquired North Carolina-based S&D Coffee & Tea from publicly-traded Cott Corp. in a $405 million deal nearly two years ago. That move greatly expanded Westrock’s global reach and made it one of the largest coffee and tea suppliers in the U.S.

Work is already complete on the 90,000 square-foot, two-building facility in Johor Bahru, Malaysia announced earlier this year, with finished good production set to begin in the first quarter of 2022.

The new facility, which is just 30 minutes from the international hub of Singapore, will enhance Westrock Coffee’s roasting capacity to accommodate for increases in manufacturing, packaging, and warehousing, of coffee and extract solutions globally.

While Westrock Coffee has a history in international coffee trade and export, this will be its first roasting, manufacturing, and packaging facility outside of the U.S.

Roby Brock is the Editor-in-Chief and Host of Talk Business & Politics.