Regardless of the temperatures, the popularity of iced coffee is heating up among consumers, and Dairy Farmers of America is capitalizing on the beverage’s growing appeal.
Through the North American Coffee Partnership (NACP) — a joint marketing partnership with PepsiCo, Inc. and Starbucks® Coffee Company — DFA is manufacturing NACP’s newest product, a ready-to-drink Starbucks Iced Coffee in 11-ounce premium glass containers. The beverage, which hit convenience store shelves in late February, comes in four flavors — coffee plus milk, low-calorie coffee plus milk, vanilla and caramel.
According to Rich Buzalka, plant manager in Mechanicsburg, Pa., the plant’s 108 employees completed their first production run of the iced coffee on December 17, and since mid-January, more than 400,000 dozens of finished product have shipped to PepsiCo’s warehouse in Carlisle, Pa.
“We began working on bringing iced coffee to Mechanicsburg in May 2012,” Buzalka says. “It’s been a great opportunity for the plant, and we were very excited to accept the challenge to begin production by years end.”
Prior to shipment, plant management worked closely with DFA’s Innovation Center in Springfield, Mo., for nearly six months to ensure the plant’s retort line, thermal processing and the product’s formulas were working correctly.
In addition to the iced coffee project, the plant produced a record 22.6 million dozens while maintaining an excellent level of customer service.
“This was the biggest challenge our employees have taken on since the plant expanded to a two-line facility in 2005,” Buzalka said. “I’m very proud of my team and the efforts they put forth to make a very successful launch of the iced coffee.”
Currently, the iced coffee is produced on a five-day, three-shift production schedule on one of the plant’s two glass retort lines. In addition to the iced coffee, employees at Mechanicsburg continue to produce the popular Starbucks mocha, coffee and vanilla-flavored Frappuccino® in 9.5-ounce and 13.7-ounce bottles.
According to Jim Hopwood, vice president for the Contract Manufacturing Division of DFA’s Global Dairy Products Group, DFA began manufacturing and packaging Frappuccino for Starbucks in 1996 under DFA’s predecessor Mid-America Dairymen in DFA’s Springfield, Mo., manufacturing facility. The product’s popularity led to expansions in 1997 at facilities in Ventura, Calif., and Mechanicsburg, Pa. More than 474 million bottles of Frappuccino were manufactured by DFA in 2012.
“Basically, the Frappuccino product created a new category in ready-to-drink beverages,” Hopwood says. “It’s been exciting to be part of a product with this type of longevity. The ready-to-drink product gives consumers the coffee shop experience from the convenience store at an affordable price.”
And last year, 275 million pounds of DFA member milk was used in Starbucks’ products, Hopwood says.
Starbucks’ ready-to-drink success stems in part from DFA’s Innovation Center, which also played a significant role in the development and commercialization of the Frappuccino products; Starbucks Doubleshot®, a blend of Starbucks espresso and cream, which was introduced in 2002; Doubleshot Energy+Coffee® in 2008; and Seattle’s Best Coffee® Iced Lattes, which launched in 2011, Hopwood says.
Kelly Piercy, senior director of technical development for contract manufacturing, has been involved with NACP since the start. Piercy says a team of up to five scientists works closely with members of NACP to develop and commercialize new flavor and line extensions and new product lines for customers.
“We spent nearly a year working alongside NACP team members developing formulas for the original Frappuccino,” Piercy says. “There’s a lot of DFA hard work in every bottle of Frappuccino.” As for Starbucks’ new iced coffee line, Piercy says the Innovation Center played a significant role in the beverage’s development, and he’s excited to see consumers’ reactions to the coffee-based pick-me-up.
According to Edward Tilley, chief operating officer for DFA’s Contract Manufacturing Division, the Cooperative’s relationship with NACP allows DFA to manufacture value-added products with members’ milk.
“DFA’s manufacturing and innovation teams continue to work closely with NACP to develop what is needed for the future of a successful brand,” Tilley says. “And building on our long-term relationship with NACP is a huge benefit for our members year after year.”