By Marlene Deschler
Spring Grove Herald
Has your palate been calling out for a Spring Grove Soda Pop, but you can’t find your favorite flavor in the store? You won’t have to wait much longer!
Spring Grove Soda Pop is finishing installing new equipment at its factory that will make the bottling process quicker and more easily monitored for flavor consistency. They plan to begin bottling again this week.
Bob and Dawn Hansen purchased Spring Grove Soda Pop in 2003. About four years ago they started having problems with their bottler.
“It would break down, and we’d repair it, which would last for about six to eight months then it would break down again in the same area; so we would repair it again, and on and on,” explained Dawn.
“We tried to keep pushing it for as long as we could because we knew new equipment was very expensive. But, it got to a point that we knew we needed to do something; it just wasn’t cost effective anymore to repair or operate the old equipment.”
Dec. 19, 2012, was their last bottling run with the old equipment. The very next day they began tearing out the old equipment. They have been working on the remodeling project ever since and completion is nearly here.
“This kind of equipment is extremely hard to find,” Bob said. “We spent a lot of time daily searching the Internet for equipment. I made a trip to South Carolina and a couple trips to North Dakota to look at equipment. We weren’t able to find an entire bottling line, so we had to make sure all the pieces would work together.”
As part of their remodel, they painted, re-did ceilings, upgraded to three-phase wiring and built a new room within the factory. The new room is for the ammonia cooling system.
They will now bottle with cold water as opposed to the room temperature water that was used in the old bottling system.
In the old system, the syrup went into the bottle and then the carbonated water was added. The bottle had to be mixed to incorporate the two ingredients.
“Now the cold water, about 35 to 40 degrees, and the syrup will mix together and then fill the bottles,” explained Bob.
“This will make for a better carbonation factor and a more consistent product. When we had to mix before, we would have to slow the machine to compensate for foaming as it mixed; we won’t have to worry about that now.”
The filler machine now has more “heads” for filling bottles, so they will be able to process bottles more quickly. Before they were able to bottle about 350 cases a day; with the new equipment, they should be able to bottle about 1,000 cases a day!
They have also had other companies inquire about Spring Grove Soda Pop co-packing their product, which will be a nice way for Spring Grove Soda to branch out.
Hansens used as many local contractors for the work as they could. The flomix machine is a unique piece of equipment and workers from United Beverage, Chicago, will be coming in to set up this piece of equipment.
“This is a very crucial piece of equipment for the whole process,” said Dawn. “This machine is where the syrup and water combine so that must be done correctly. Once the product is into the filler, we know how to handle that like before.”
Another added benefit to the new system is a date coder. Now all of the bottles will have an expiration date on them, something that consumers have become accustomed to seeing on food items.
“If there would ever be a need for a recall, the date code would help us trace the sugar and syrup, etc., which would be very helpful,” added Dawn.
This remodel has been a major project, but not without stress. The filler is a completely refurbished unit, and the company that was doing that was behind.
“Our original date to receive the filler was the end of December; we didn’t get it until mid-February,” explained Dawn.
“This delayed us, as we needed this piece in place in order to work the other equipment off of it. If it had arrived as scheduled, our stockpile of soda would have been sufficient, but unfortunately that is not how it worked out.
“Even though the remodeling has been challenging and stressful, we are very excited about our new system and look forward to what this will mean for Spring Grove Soda Pop.”
Spring Grove Soda Pop bottles eight different flavors, including strawberry, lemon sour, root beer, orange, black cherry, cream soda, grape and creamy orange.
Learn more online at www.springgrovesoda.com.
This story was reprinted with permission from the Spring Grove Herald.