There are a lot of thirsty people out there.
Wis-Pak in Norfolk produces up to 16 million cases of beverages a year to quench that need for liquids.
“We produce a lot,” said Terry Ralston, facility manager at the Norfolk Wis-Pak. “In a normal day, we fill a million cans and about a half million bottles.”
The company began operating in Norfolk in the late 1970s, when several Pepsi franchise owners within about 150 mile radius of the city decided they wanted to get out of the production process and focus solely on sales. The co-op that was created operated under the name of Midwest Canners.
In the 1990s, Midwest Canners merged with the Watertown, Wis.-based co-op known as Wis-Pak. Wis-Pak is a manufacturer and distributor of Pepsi-Cola and other leading soft drinks. It has production facilities and warehouses in various locations throughout the central United States.
Ralston said when he began working for Midwest Canners about 32 years ago, the Norfolk facility produced around two million cases of beverages per year. Its merger with Wis-Pak has led to an enormous amount of growth at the Norfolk facility.
In 1999, the facility underwent a major expansion project which more than doubled its size. Production went up accordingly.
As a beverage manufacturer, the Norfolk Wis-Pak facility produces bottles and cans of soft drinks, as well as syrup packs used in restaurants. Its products range from a variety of beverages from colas and waters to a variety of bottled iced teas, including its most popular — Mountain Dew — and its own bottled water label, Klarbrunn.
“We produce several tea products and bottled waters along with many different carbonated soft drinks among the 98 different flavors we manufacture” Ralston said. “We order the raw materials we need, mix the batches of flavorings, and blend them to the finished drink.” The finished drinks go into 275 different packages.
About 100 people work in production at the plant, which serves regular customers throughout Nebraska and into portions of Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas. An average of 75 trucks come and go from the plant each day.
Among the accounts served by the Norfolk Wis-Pak facility is the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
“All of the Memorial Stadium football games and basketball games at the new arena, everything (served) down there, the product will come out of this plant,” Ralston said. “If you buy a bottle of pop at the stadium, it was produced here in Norfolk.”
Ralston said the Norfolk facility is up to meeting the challenges of the future, including keeping up with increasing safety regulations being put on the food industry.
“We protect everything we do,” he said. “It’s a big challenge to keep up with that. There’s a lot of pressure and a lot of requirements, not only for beverage plants, but all kinds of food manufacturing. It is a good thing.”