Powdered Drinks, Protein Bars and More: Factory Manufacturing Debuts New Production Facility in the Lehigh Valley

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on February 16, 2023

Factory Manufacturing LLC has debuted a new facility that makes powdered drinks, protein bars and more in the Lehigh Valley. (Photo/Glenn Koehler)

Accomplished manufacturing entrepreneur Rich Thompson and his team of seasoned pros have spent the last five years luring innovative food, beverage and pet food (Think Freshpet) companies to the Lehigh Valley and helping them to scale up at a business innovation center named Factory LLC in south Bethlehem.

This year, Thompson’s team has unveiled a 75,000-square-foot production facility, dubbed Factory Manufacturing LLC, that will make products for a few of those growing companies. The facility is also designed to make products contracted by companies unaffiliated with Factory.

Rich Thompson, Factory Manufacturing LLC

“The Lehigh Valley is an ideal location within driving distance of a third of the U.S. population. We have good transportation facilities and lower cost of living,” Thompson said. “We have innovation partners here and a smart, talented workforce in the Lehigh Valley.”

The production facility at 157 N. Commerce Way in Hanover Township, Northampton County, is leased from J.G. Petrucci Co.’s Triple Net Investments. The building is equipped for the production and packaging of powdered drinks, supplements and energy/protein bars. The first production line made single-serve packets of powder for ROAR, a beverage company growing through Factory LLC. Another run is being made for Honey Stinger, another Factory brand partner that makes performance chews, energy waffles and protein bars.

The facility includes blending machines for powder-based beverages, machines that can package the powder in individual, serving-size sticks or bulk containers, and a production line that can produce energy/protein bars in various shapes with short changeover times.

“What makes Factory MF stand out is that every aspect of design was meticulously thought through and non-conventionally engineered to reach the safety, quality, and operational thresholds needed as a flexible and expanding powder and bar manufacturing facility,” said Kevin Brown, operations and maintenance manager.

The project underscores the importance of manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley. With an economic output of $8.4 billion, manufacturing was the biggest contributor to the Lehigh Valley metro region’s GDP in 2021 and employs more than 36,000 people in Lehigh and Northampton counties, making products ranging from Crayola crayons, Mack Trucks and Stuffed Puffs. The region has a particularly strong presence of food, beverage and pet food manufacturers including Just Born, Ocean Spray, Freshpet, and Coca Cola.

“The innovation at Factory Manufacturing LLC is another example of the Lehigh Valley’s manufacturing strength,” said Don Cunningham, President and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC). “We continue to see strong interest from manufacturers who want to take advantage of the region’s location and talent.”

ROAR President Bill Lange said the new facility is making the innovations that the company has developed while working with Factory LLC. Among those innovations are single-serve powder packets, which allow customers to mix flavored powder in their own glass of water or bottle. That, he said, creates a more convenient way for customers to drink ROAR.

“Consumers are constantly on the go whether that’s to the gym for sports or another appointment,” he said. “But even beyond that, this product has a beneficial impact to the environmental footprint.”

The transportation of the products to market will be cheaper because the packets weigh less than bottled beverages, requiring less fossil fuel. It also cuts down on plastics because customers can pour the powder into their re-usable bottles, reducing the need for single-use plastics.

ROAR Founder Roly Nesi said what he loves about the new powder product line, recently launched on television shopping network QVC, is the ability to test and try out new things. That would not have happened without the innovation at Factory LLC.

“This is a great facility, and it is located at a perfect spot, logistically, in the Lehigh Valley,” he said. “There will be a lot of innovation and new flavors coming out because of this facility.”

The facility also includes the research and development expertise provided by Allen Flavors, which works with middle market, entrepreneurial and multinational food and beverage brands with flavors.

Nearly five years ago, Thompson and his team launched Factory LLC in Bethlehem, a business innovation center for food, beverage and pet companies looking to scale up. Located in a converted Bethlehem Steel building, Factory includes a team of experienced operators with $250 million of investable capital who acquire meaningful equity stakes in client companies and partner with them to grow. The 40,000 square-foot innovation center offers services in everything from food safety, product development, supply chain, social media marketing, and packaging, design and engineering.

Among its success stories is Stuffed Puffs, which makes chocolate- and caramel-infused marshmallows. Stuffed Puffs opened a manufacturing facility in 2021 in the Lehigh Valley. Factory Manufacturing is the second manufacturing facility to arise from the Factory LLC.

A former CEO of Freshpet, Thompson had helped lead the move of Freshpet into Lehigh Valley in a production facility just across the street from where Factory Manufacturing LLC is now in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park IV.

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