Coca-Cola in Waterford: Serving Beverages to Millions


Owen Seltzer, Layout Editor

Tucked away near Crossroads and Walmart is a large warehouse that supplies drinks for a major portion of Connecticut. The Coca-Cola Distribution Center in Waterford is owned by Coke Northeast, a franchise of The Coca-Cola Company. Coke Northeast serves Coca-Cola products for all of New England as well as some of upstate New York. They serve roughly 86 million cases of drinks annually to more than 80,000 customers, according to Andy Lincoln, office manager at the Waterford Distribution Center.

The Waterford facility is relatively new, having been completed in 2011. Previously, distribution had been based out of an old building on Bank Street in New London, which is now the Harley Davidson shop, and still carries memories of the building’s past through engravings on the sides. The new building has both offices and a gigantic warehouse. All of the bottling for drinks for Coke Northeast is done at production centers in Londonderry, New Hampshire and East Hartford, Connecticut. The finished products are then shipped in large trucks to distribution centers, such as the one located in Waterford. From there, trucks will deliver drink orders to supermarkets, restaurants, and all other customers.

At the Waterford location, approximately 3 million cases are distributed every year. A team of roughly 20 salesmen get in contact with buyers from East Haven all the way over to Newport in southern Rhode Island. Once orders are placed, workers within the warehouse use machines to move the large palettes into place to be loaded onto delivery trucks. There are six 18-wheel trucks used for making bulk delivery orders to larger establishments such as supermarkets. The remaining trucks are smaller and about 15 to 20 are sent out to deliver smaller orders each day to places such as gas stations or smaller restaurants. Any place in the area that serves Coke products most likely got its supply of drinks from this location.

The center distributes mostly Coca-Cola products such as Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Powerade. However, they also deliver many beverages for which Coca-Cola does not own the rights. For instance, Canada Dry and Dr. Pepper were two drinks spotted in the warehouse. Also distributed are drinks such as bottled Dunkin’ Donuts coffees. The variety of drinks as well as their bottling form factors is astounding. There is no shortage of liquids. All around the office spaces there were refrigerators with drinks for employees.

Demand for beverages fluctuates with the seasons. There is a much larger demand for drinks in the summertime, especially in places such as Newport with many seasonal restaurants. To compensate for the increased demand, the distribution center takes on many seasonal employees in the summertime. As a brand, Coca-Cola is constantly developing and marketing new drinks to sell. All over the warehouse were marketing posters for the new Cherry Vanilla drink being rolled out nationwide. The drink was inspired by data taken from Coca-Cola freestyle machines found in restaurants such as Moes and Wendy’s. The computers within the machines track what drink flavors customers mix the most and the results influence the creation of new drinks. They follow trends across the nation, such as rolling out drinks with less sugar and less calories.

In the local community, the distribution center is well-known. We were shown a corner of the warehouse piled high with drinks that had been removed from cases where the outer casing had been damaged. All drinks that cannot be sent to restaurants but are still safe to drink are donated to groups in the community, where they can be used in fundraising efforts. The bottling plants also are zero-waste facilities with a 96% recycling rate, and there are methods for processing recycled plastic in the plants as well.

Many employees expressed their contentment working for Coke Northeast, Lincoln included, who has worked for the company for more than 30 years now and says that he is just one of many long-time employees. He suggested that anybody looking for a summer job who is 18 years of age should feel free to come down to the distribution center and learn more about the great work they do.