Tropicana building new $4 million facility in Bradenton

BRADENTON -- Tropicana is building a new $4 million manufacturing facility at its U.S. 301 plant site to accommodate a switch to bottle packaging for its juices.

The Manatee Economic Development Council made the announcement Thursday, saying permitting for the new building was fast tracked through the county’s rapid-response permitting process.

Tropicana is switching from cardboard cartons to clear, plastic bottles for its juice products based on positive response from consumers, said Tropicana spokeswoman Gina Judge.

“Most of the positions created by the new facility will be filled through our current workforce, though we anticipate a small number of new job opportunities.” Judge said.

Construction on the new 36,000-square-foot building began in January and is expected to be completed sometime mid-summer, she said.

The multi-million-dollar investment also will include equipment and workforce training, said Eric Basinger, executive director of the EDC.

Last summer, the company started using a plastic bottle for its juice product Trop50. A few weeks ago, Tropicana began transitioning its Pure Premium brand to a new plastic bottle in the western region of the U.S. and has plans for expanded distribution.

“We did a lot of consumer research and consumers want to see the juice they are drinking,” said Judge about the reason for the switch.

“The most exciting thing about this announcement is that in this economy a company of this caliber is reinvesting in our community,” Basinger said. “That says a lot about the community. This helps us to stabilize our workforce and head in a positive direction.”

Basinger said Tropicana had “other options” in building the facility. The company does have a plant in Fort Pierce.

“Tropicana had many choices of location for this project, and we are thrilled the company chose to reinvest in its original home in Manatee County,” said Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator.

“Rapid-response permitting is making a huge difference for us in meeting market demand for Tropicana products in our innovative new packaging,” said Michael Haycock, Tropicana vice president of operations. “We can’t say enough about how positive our experience has been working with the EDC and Manatee County government.”

Tropicana’s footprint in Manatee is a large one. It is one of the county’s largest employers -- it employs 1,400 -- and its largest manufacturing employer.

One out of every three oranges grown commercially in Florida ends up at Tropicana and many of the workers at the Bradenton plant are second and third-generation employees.

The company, founded by Italian immigrant Anthony Rossi in 1953, is the largest purchaser of fruit in Florida, processing 41 million boxes of fruit a season.