AYER -- In today's competitive climate of business, staying open for 10 years is considered success; staying open for 50 years is epic.
Pepsi is part of the golden age. EPIC (Enjoy Pepsi In Cans), the beverage company's local cannery, celebrated its 50th year at the Coffman Street location earlier this month.
More than 200 people showed up to help with the birthday party. The 290,000-square-foot building on 17 acres employs 150 area residents and distributes Pepsi products throughout New England, packaging and shipping more than 50,000 cases per day.
"When I started here, there were 25 employees," said 66-year-old John Byron, of Chelmsford. He has worked at the plant for 45 years and has seen lots of significant growth and lots of changes, especially with regard to consumer expectations.
"It's a challenge every day. We try to get everyone a fresh product. Inventory needs to be constantly updated because all products have an expiration date. The expiration date is nearing for me too," he said.
Visitors, mostly employees and families, were treated to catered lunch and a tour of the massive plant, which plays three major roles in the manufacturing process for the mothership Pepsi.
Raw materials arrive at the center -- condensed mixture to which highly filtered water and carbonation is added -- the finished beverages are poured into cans (no bottles) along three long, serpentine production belts that meander through the building. The sealed cans are packaged into various quantities of carrying cases.
No longer limited to Pepsi labels, EPIC produces and packages 200 varieties of beverages including fruit juices, energy drinks and coffees.
"We have grown so much," said General Manager Don Smallwood. "We were the first plant to make other-than-12-ounce containers."
The plant, whose address spills over onto Copeland Drive, is the testing ground for research and development of new products and new sizes.