I have always found it fascinating to see how things are made or put together. That’s why I was so excited when I received an invitation to tour the Coca-Cola bottling plant in my area. I didn’t even know we had such a place, and it’s so close by too! The plant is not open for public tours but I put together this video so you can feel like you joined me during my visit. 😀
Coca-Cola Bottling Processes
From gathering ingredients to shipping, this bottling plant does it all. Instead of storing finished drinks, this plant makes use of a continuous mixing system. Bins of “secret sauce” concentrate run through overhead piping as it mixes with sugar and water. Since liquid can retain more carbon dioxide when coold, the mixture is chilled to 36-39°F before adding CO2. It is then heated to prevent condensation, and therefore bacteria growth, during packaging.
Cans are then filled, seamed (aka tops are crimped closed), and put in cardboard boxes. Bottles are filled and labeled, tops screwed on, and then these are shrink-wrapped before shipping. The plant also acts as a distribution center for other Coca-Cola beverages, sending the products out by truck or by boat via the Oakland port.
The bottling plant also produces the plastic bottles used in the process. Bottles start off as clear or colored plastic vials. Once heated, these vials go in molds. Adding 80 psi of air pressure blows out the plastic to the shape of the mold. It is then immediately cooled and sensors scan for any defects. We couldn’t see what was happening inside the molds but I can show you what the “before” bottles look like. The blue ones will be Dasani bottles, the green vials are for Sprite, and the clear are for everything else.
Learning about the Coca-Cola Company & the San Leandro Bottling Plant
Before our tour, we had the opportunity to learn about Coca-Cola and this bottling plant. Coca-Cola is best known for producing its signature cola and other flavored sodas. But, the brand now encompasses a wide range of other beverages. These include Honest Tea, Dasani, glacéau smartwater, Odwalla, Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, Simply Orange, Minute Maid, Suja, Fairlife milk products, and more.
When it comes to soda intake, the company aims to be “part of the solution instead of part of the problem.” Consumers have their pick of options with reduced calories or sugar. Drinks come in smaller containers too. This helps with portion control since you can still enjoy the taste but in smaller quantities. By the way, I thought you might enjoy some fun facts I picked up during my visit.
- Plastic bottles are porous and, over time, carbon dioxide seeps out. That’s why bottles seem to have less “fizz” than cans sometimes.
- The aluminum in cans holds the gasses in and contain a liner to preserve the flavor. But, that liner will also erode in time. The recommended shelf-life of Coca-Cola canned beverages is one year.
- At first, cans do not have a top. After filling, tops are put on and edges are crimped down in a process called “seaming.” Since this seal is not 100% leak-proof, it’s best to store cans upright versus on the side.
- The bottling process happens so quickly that items can be made, shipped, and put on store shelves in the same day.
The Coca-Cola bottling plant in San Leandro, California was established back in 1967. It handles both still and sparkling beverages. What’s most impressive about the plant are its many outstanding achievements.
- Water Neutrality — For every one liter of water used to make a beverage, one liter is reused or replenished. To achieve this, the plant uses air rinsers, dry lube lubricant instead of a water/soap mixture, and participates in water reclaim projects. It is the only Fortune 500 company to reach this goal, and this even happened five years ahead of schedule.
- Hydrogen Fuel Cell-Powered Forklifts — This alternate energy allows for 10 hours of use on one charge. It only takes two minutes to recharge.
- Landfill Diversion — 97% of waste at the plant goes to recycling, composting, and buyers instead of going to landfills.
- Superior Quality Assurance — Every hour, employees take samples off the line to test for cap torque, carbon dioxide level, sugar level, etc. The QA department here is ranked among the top three plants in the company and receives low customer complaints.
I had such a great time during our Coca-Cola bottling plant tour. It was so interesting to see the entire process from mixing the base ingredients all the way through shipping. Plus, as a long-time Coca-Cola consumer, I gained a new appreciation for the brand. I was impressed by the company’s aim to provide healthier options, efforts to lessen its impact on the environment, the willingness to adopt new technology, and by the many community outreach efforts. I can’t wait to see what’s in-store for Coca-Cola in the coming months and years!
I was invited to tour the facilities and speak with Coca-Cola representatives. All opinions are my own.