Pernod Ricard USA is entering the ready-to-drink (RTD) market and doing so by investing $22 million into its Fort Smith plant. The investment will provide the facility with canning capabilities and add at least 50 jobs.
The Fort Smith plant now has 220 employees. Plans are to add additional positions around bottling, processing and warehouse area jobs to help with the expansion from on-floor positions to salaried roles, said Jennifer Anglin, senior operations director for the Fort Smith Pernod Ricard (Hiram Walker) plant.
“This investment is an incredible step in strengthening our manufacturing footprint in Fort Smith,” said Pierre Joncourt, senior vice president of Pernod Ricard North America. “The high-speed canning line will be instrumental in increasing our production capabilities and swiftly bringing our premium, bar-quality RTDs to market.”
The expansion has begun at the plant, and the new high-speed line is expected to be fully operational by the end of this year, she said.
The plant already produces several Pernod Ricard spirits, including Kahlua Coffee Liqueur and Seagram’s Gin. The new canning line, and the RTD offerings they’ll be able to produce as a result, will give them an opportunity to help make popular brands like Jameson, Absolut, Malibu and TX Whiskey even more accessible and enjoyable for consumers.
RTDs, which now include hard seltzers, prepared cocktails and long drinks, hard teas and coffees, wine spritzers and coolers, are convenient, easy to find, carry, and store and easy to recycle, according to Pernod Ricard. They’re also projected to be the fastest-growing alcohol category globally over the next five years, with an expectation for them to increase by an additional $11.6 billion during that time, according to a new report from IWSR).
“Pernod Ricard – like the rest of the spirits industry – is continuing to expand from a volume growth perspective and welcomed the addition of eight brand new 50,000-gallon tanks to the Fort Smith plant,” Anglin said. “Volume has only continued to increase for our Fort Smith facility and the spirits industry overall. This latest canning line expansion will not only allow us to produce various spirits across our brand portfolio, but more importantly, it will create numerous jobs to keep up with demand.”
The Pernod Ricard news is the second announced manufacturing expansion in Fort Smith in recent weeks. Rheem announced Nov. 7 it is investing $20 million into the Fort Smith plant in an expansion that will add an estimated 100 jobs. Rheem now employs around 900 in Fort Smith.