Good Robot Brewing, the popular Halifax seller of craft beer, is opening a new production facility aimed at sharing manufacturing resources among the region’s beverage makers and allowing them to achieve the scale necessary to target international markets.
Founded in 2015 by Joshua Counsil, Angus Campbell and Doug Kehoe, Good Robot has historically located its production operations at its Robie Street brewery and taproom. But for multiple years before the pandemic, that facility was operating at capacity, spurring its owners to consider more efficient ways to scale the business.
“Angus came up with this idea of a beverage manufacturing facility with really, really trailblazing and innovative technology,” said Counsil in an interview.
“And that rather than have every brewery or beverage manufacturer in Atlantic Canada trying to scale up at the same time … we could gain a whole bunch of efficiencies that we could pass on to other beverage manufacturers in Atlantic Canada.”
He added that Good Robot’s new plant, nicknamed “The Beverage Factory,” will also be suitable for making cider, coffee, sparkling water and coconut milk, among other potential uses. Beverage makers will hire Good Robot to produce and co-pack their beverages under contract.
Located in Elmsdale at 14 Industrial Way, The Beverage Factory boasts about 15,000 square feet of floor space, compared to 800 square feet at the Robie Street site, and is in the process of brewing its first batch of beer.
Counsil said he would like the facility to be working with at least four beverage companies at a time, but no more than 20. That range will allow Good Robot to justify its capital investment without creating unmanageable logistical complexity.
He added that this is opportune timing to be starting a co-manufacturing facility because global supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine have put the squeeze on craft brewers, with both combatant countries being major exporters of malt.
“All of those external factors caused a boatload of pressure on the brewing industry, which is already a very challenging industry to be in, with micro-manufacturing and the cost of goods,” said Counsil. “What we had basically was a need for efficiencies.”
In the United States, some brewers have even been halting production, due partly to a carbon dioxide shortage and partly to rising barley prices.
To finance the operation of the new plant and scale its workforce, Good Robot is in the process of raising a $500,000 equity funding round, but is eschewing venture capitalists in favour of more traditional private equity shops because feedback from VCs has been that the company is too established to tap early-stage funding.
Counsil said the raise is “in order to improve our debt-to-equity ratio, and to protect the company for the next couple of years and give us a better cash runway.”
The Beverage Factory itself was also paid for with the help of loans from “a variety of banks and Crown corporations, both national and provincial.”
So far, 12 people work at the plant, a figure which Counsil said will increase proportionally with demand.
Beverages, particularly those offering health benefits, are becoming increasingly common product lines for Atlantic Canadian startups. CanBliss Beverages in Charlottetown is developing cannabis-infused, non-alcoholic wines. And Halifax-based Cove Kombucha is a fast-growing, venture-backed consumer brand.