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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake City startup says it's looking to upend the beverage canning market and has plans in place to open a sprawling facility on the city's west side this fall and hire some 400 new employees to make it go.
Vobev general manager Eric Cudnohoske said his company is opening the first all-in-one aluminum canning facility in North America and, when operational, it will accommodate manufacturing cans, labeling, filling and shipping a wide variety of finished products, all under a single roof.
Cudnohoske said the current canned beverage industry is one in which making, filling and shipping cans typically happens in separate processes and sometimes runs through facilities that are widely dispersed. Vobev, he said, will be positioned to disrupt this clunky and inefficient legacy model, saving time and money for clients and reducing the cumulative carbon footprint on the pathway to getting products to market.
"The can and beverage industry has a problem," Cudnohoske said. "A can could be manufactured on the East Coast, the empty can is shipped across the country to the West Coast to get filled and then somewhere else to get packed. It may then go someplace else to be shipped to the end consumer.
"Vobev is going to be the market disruptor, putting everything under one roof."
While aluminum cans are one of the easiest and most efficient items to recycle, the global consumption of canned beverages piles up 180 billion empties each year. According to an analysis by Fortune Business Insights, the beverage can market in the U.S. alone was worth over $25 billion in 2019 and is one on the rise, projected to surpass $36 billion by 2027.
The Fortune report noted the COVID-19 public health crisis has had marked impacts on the beverage canning market, including disruption of bauxite mining (from which aluminum is smelted) as well as the transportation of raw materials and the recycling ecosystem. Those issues led to a shortage in the aluminum can supply even as pandemic conditions drove up consumption as consumers stocked up on their favorite products amid health restrictions. The report cites the unexpected boost in demand in continuing to fuel growth for the industry.
Cudnohoske said Vobev sees its market primarily among small to midsize producers but could also function as a canning/distribution point for bigger companies looking to put a portion of their production closer to customers and retailers in the Mountain West and West Coast regions. He said there were many reasons behind the decision to locate the Vobev plant in Utah, but also sees the state's rising activity in unique and small-scale beverage production as a potential boon for the new facility. And, Cudnohoske said Vobev can help beverage entrepreneurs get their products ready for consumers, and on the way to store shelves, faster than the piecemeal approach.
A can could be manufactured on the East Coast, the empty can is shipped across the country to the West Coast to get filled and then somewhere else to get packed. ... Vobev is going to be the market disruptor, putting everything under one roof.
–Eric Cudnohoske, Vobev general manager
Cudnohoske said Vobev will be focused on an inclusive and supportive work environment with a "people first" mantra that he said will apply to its own employees as well as business partners and collaborators.
"Our leadership team is extremely proud of the collaborative culture we are creating," Cudnohoske said in a statement. "We are most excited to build an organization and brand that delivers best-in-class products, and we can't do that without amazing people. Vobev is structured to empower individuals to have a voice, and we can't wait to see the future we build together."
While most of the expected hires will be involved with the production lines at Vobev, Cudnohoske said he would classify the jobs as "highly skilled manufacturing positions" that will keep the state-of-the-art technology and automation cranking out product.
Cudnohoske declined to share details on Vobev's startup financing but described the company as "wholly independent" and one shooting for having its first canned drinks heading out the shipping door sometime in the last quarter of the year.
The company said new positions will be posted as they become available on the Vobev website.