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Westrock Coffee opens Conway manufacturing facility

Heather Kim/NPR

A Little-Rock based coffee processing company has opened a new location in Conway. Westrock Coffee held the grand opening for the bean-to-brew facility in Conway Thursday afternoon.

The new building houses a production center to roast, mix and can ready-to-drink coffee products for retail brands. It also has a research and development lab with scaled-down equipment to test new products.

Cedric Smith is the Vice President of the new facility. At a press tour Thursday morning, he highlighted the building’s rapid development.

“We broke ground on this factory in March of '23. From March of ‘23 to April 16, we produced our first sellable product” Smith said. “It’s usually a three-to-five-year turnaround to produce a product from the inception of the idea until you build out a finished product line.”

Smith says this level of turnaround is “unheard of” in the coffee manufacturing business.

Green coffee beans are roasted, ground, and processed into beverages inside the facility, alongside milk, sweeteners and flavorings. Smith described the 570,000-square-foot facility as a spiderweb, with a central room where coffee is brewed and batched before being sent to other parts of the facility to be mixed with milk and flavorings and then, finally, canned and labeled and sent onwards.

Westrock produces coffee products for several clients, calling themselves “the brand behind the brands”. The Conway facility’s primary focus is “ready-to-drink” products, such as cold brew and espresso beverages.

Smith says the facility was built with growth in mind, providing enough space to add more processing equipment without having to shut down production in future years.

At peak capacity, the facility will employ 900 people.

Maggie Ryan is a reporter and local host of All Things Considered for Little Rock Public Radio.