They say Virginia is for lovers — as in, lovers of all things awesome, like rugged forests, lush valleys, mountains, beaches, etc. But the state is also a vibrant manufacturing hub with a burgeoning foodie scene that includes everything from small-town food-to-fork restaurants to large-scale manufacturing facilities that crank out products served around the world.
On a recent food and beverage media tour of Virginia, I tasted my way across the state for two and a half days (because somebody’s gotta) where I learned just how diverse Virginia’s food economy really is.
We stopped at some of Virginia’s biggest facilities such as Sabra (home to the world’s largest hummus factory) and Whanchese Fish Company (which has been business since 1936 and is one of the country’s leading seafood suppliers).
Here’s a peek at some of our other stops and a look at the innovative tech being used to keep the facilities cranking out the goods.
Stone Brewery — Richmond
How many bottles of beer are on the wall? A whole lot at Stone Brewery. In fact, this recently opened 213,000-square-foot facility for Stone, which is one of the top 10 biggest craft brewers in the country, produces about two thousand kegs of beer a day.
This video shows their long production line for bottles from the end to near the beginning.
And while you can get a glimpse of how big the bottling and packaging side of the facility is, what you can’t see is the brewery’s many tanks, which were so massive the roof had to be removed lift them into the plant.
Virginia International Gateway — Portsmouth
Until one year ago, this bustling port in Virginia was the only fully automated port in the Western Hemisphere. And, while other ports are catching up to their level of technology, Virginia International Gateway remains a leader in the field and frequently trains port developers from around the world on how to fully automate their systems.
It’s also a busy port for food and beverage. In fact, it is the second busiest port for coffee on the East Coast, and was recently certified as a delivery point on the ICE Future U.S. Coffee “C” futures contract.
Massimo Zanetti Beverage — Suffolk
Here’s a plant that always smells good. Founded in Italy, this facility, which is one of many owned by Massimo Zanetti, produces coffee for some of America’s biggest brands.
The company is the fourth largest coffee manufacturer in the U.S. and the only fully vertically integrated coffee producer in the country. Some of their most well-known brands include Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme and Costco’s Kirkland brand.
Shenandoah Growers — Harrisonburg
It started as a small family owned herb farm and has since grown into one of the biggest suppliers of fresh herbs in the country.
On the day we were there, the folks at Shenandoah were finishing a giant order for Walmart that included gift pots of rosemary.
The company is also on the cutting edge of agriculture, using automated planters, an innovative growing system with LED lights and a proprietary closed-loop system for their nitrogen cycle.
Some of the company’s solutions are effectively low-tech as well, including their giant sheets of tape used for catching critters — a must-have in an organic facility that’s avoiding pesticides.