Privately held Westrock Coffee continues zenith growth with expansion of global operations
December 27 - January 2, 2022
By Wesley Brown
Led by former Alltel Corp executives Joe and Scott Ford and a strong band of former lieutenants, Little Rock-based Westrock Coffee Company LLC unveiled broad expansion plans on Dec. 16 to make the former Arkansas coffee startup one of the leading global coffee producers.
The new plans included revamping an empty Conway factory into a state-of the-art factory that will add 250 high-paying new jobs to local payrolls and churn out new coffee, tea and associated products. Westrock said the new year plans will expand its operations and beverage capabilities with the purchase of a new 524,000 square-foot facility in Conway that will be the largest such manufacturing site of its kind in the U.S.
The year-end announcement comes less than two years after Westrock trumpeted a $405 million deal to buy North Carolina-based S&D Coffee & Tea from publicly traded Cott Corp. In addition, Westrock CEO Scott Ford said the company will also expand its extracts manufacturing capacity in Concord, N.C., and launch new operations in Malaysia that will serve its rapidly growing customer demand across 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 Ford and co-founder of Westrock Coffee. “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 in order to enhance the lives of our farmer partners and fuel the success of the customers that we serve.”
The company recently finalized the purchase of the Conway site that will provide Westrock Coffee ample space for the development, production, and distribution of its coffee, tea, and ready-to-drink (RTD) products. The industrial site is the former home of consumer paper goods giant Kimberly Clark Corp., which shuttered the facility during the Christmas holidays three years ago during a companywide restructuring.
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, company officials said. The space will also incorporate state-of-the-art quality assurance and product development labs, enabling Westrock Coffee to create, test and produce new beverage solutions.
“Westrock Coffee Company provides the drink that fuels many Arkansans in the workplace, and others all around the world,” said Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “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.”
The new Conway location will require a variety of skilled jobs to support Westrock's focus on global product innovation, manufacturing, and packaging. Initially, up to 50 new jobs will be created following phase one of the build out, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023, then growing to approximately 250 positions over time. Many of the jobs needed to operate the facility will require a significantly advanced and skilled workforce, commanding higher salaries, ranging up to over $100,000 per year.
“From skilled labor to our business climate, Arkansas has the tools in place to help businesses grow and prosper,” Arkansas Secretary of Commerce Mike Preston said, who also serves as executive director of the state Economic Development Commission (AEDC). “We are proud of our homegrown success stories like Westrock Coffee. By implementing a unique business model, Westrock has improved the lives of farmers, employees, and communities at every step in its supply chain. We at AEDC are excited to watch them enter this new phase of development.”
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, officials said. The privately held coffee manufacturing and producer was first founded in 2009 by the former Alltel CEO and his father Joe Scott Ford and several other investors, including The Stephens Group of Little Rock.
The Fords held the same roles at the former Alltel Corp in November 2007 when the former Little Rock wireless giant was sold to TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners for $25 billion. In June 2008, Verizon Wireless announced it would acquire the majority of Alltel Wireless from the Wall Street private equity firms in a deal valued at $28.1 billion.
1. Aerial view of the former Kimberly Clark plant in Conway that was recently purchased by Westrock Coffee of Little Rock. Once refurbished in early 2023, the state-of-the-art 524,000 square-foot facility will develop, produce and distribute the company's coffee, tea, and ready-to-drink (RTD) products.
2. Aerial view of the shuttered former Kimberly Clark plant in Conway, recently purchased by Westrock Coffee of Little Rock. Once refurbished in early 2023, the 524,000 square-foot facility will included state-of-the-art equipment for the development, production, and distribution of th