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Tom Kehoe, President, Yards Brewing Company, left, discusses with national journalists his company’s commitment to creating quality products during a press tour of the food and beverage industry in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley.

As a writer for a sustainability magazine, Brian Wright was impressed with the steps Pennsylvania food and beverage manufacturers are taking to protect the planet.

As a consumer, he was just as impressed with the food and beverages he sampled as part of a Department of Community and Economic Development-sponsored press tour of five food and beverage manufacturers in Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley. Team Pennsylvania Foundation helped fund the tour.

“Besides the fact that the Peeps (Iconic Peeps) were delicious, there was a lot of great material along the lines of sustainability,” Wright said. “I really liked the tour.”

From collecting and recycling wastewater to using an ozone generator to sanitize brewing equipment, Wright, who is a Digital Editor at Illinois-based Sustainable Plant, said all five companies demonstrated social responsibility as businesses.

“I’m a beer geek and the Yards (brewery) tour was not only interesting to me, but the fact that they are using an ozone generator to sanitize their equipment and eliminate putting chemicals into our water system was a very eye-opening experience,” Wright said. “While I had heard that this technology was being used by the wine industry, this is the first time I’ve seen it used by a beer brewery.”

Steve Kratz, Press Secretary, DCED, said the department decided to showcase Pennsylvania’s rich agricultural history and landscape to national journalists over a three-day period to give them a taste of Pennsylvania’s well-known agricultural and manufactured food products.

“Pennsylvania ships $32 billion worth of food products annually, ranking it among the highest in the U.S., and ranks second in beverage production shipment value at $4.1 billion,” Kratz said. “There are 2,300 food processing companies in Pennsylvania, employing more than 66,800 Pennsylvanians. And the numbers are on the rise, particularly in these two regions of the commonwealth.”

In Philadelphia, food manufacturers with deep local roots are enhancing their processes, adding machinery that is attracting outside companies to Pennsylvania, and shipping to an increasing number of international countries, Kratz added.

In the Lehigh Valley, global food and beverage brands are streamlining production processes and constructing brand new facilities in order to take advantage of Pennsylvania’s critical location and workforce.

“Our goal was to showcase outstanding companies in those regions that have benefited from doing business in Pennsylvania and, more specifically, highlight companies that have positive manufacturing, growth and innovation stories to share,” Kratz noted.

The following companies were featured on the tour:

• With a facility made entirely of recycled materials, Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia takes its commitment to innovation one step further with the addition of an automation system to their process (and the addition of new team members and shifts).

• Philly-based Vincent Giordano Corporation’s state-of-the-art high pressure pasteurization equipment ensures higher food safety and is attracting out-of-state businesses to Pennsylvania.

• As a third-generation family-held business since 1884, vanilla extract manufacturer Ottens Flavors in Philadelphia now ships to 32 international countries.

• Bethlehem-based Iconic Peeps marshmallow candies are produced start-to-finish at Just Born, Inc., a family-owned company that has been in business since 1923.

• At Nestle Waters, which is located in Breinigsville, water is tested and bottles are made, filled, packaged and distributed, producing about 250,000 cases a day during peak summer season.

In addition to these site visits, the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Northampton Community College, and local economic development partners such as the Philadelphia Industrial Resource Corporation and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation also discussed research and new workforce recruitment, training and retention tools that are making the region known for its innovation and talent.