36 Vermonters laid off as Keurig-style cocktail company shuts down
A total of 36 Vermonters are losing their jobs after a company that made a Keurig-style system for alcoholic drinks announced plans to shut down in mid-December.
It is the second time in recent years that Keurig Dr Pepper, which has operations in three Vermont towns, has failed in an effort to launch a cold beverage system.
Drinkworks operated a facility in Williston, where it developed and manufactured drink pods. Customers use those pods in the company’s “home bar” machines to make cocktails and other beverages, such as a cosmopolitan, mai tai, margarita or old fashioned.
Drinkworks was a joint venture of Keurig Dr Pepper and Anheuser-Busch InBev, the maker of Budweiser.
"Our Drinkworks joint venture with Anheuser-Busch enabled us to explore the possibilities of a single-serve alcohol drink system," said Keurig spokesperson Katie Gilroy in a written statement. "We look forward to applying the insights gained toward new beverage innovations throughout our core business."
Vermont’s Department of Labor received a letter from Drinkworks on Jan. 19, notifying it of the business closure. According to the letter, employees were told the business was shutting down on Dec. 15, and most Williston employees were let go on Jan. 31, with severance offers.
Some workers are staying on until the end of March, as the company winds down its operations.
According to a department spokesperson, Labor Department officials have met with Drinkworks employees and are working to connect them with other local employment opportunities “that match their skills and interests.” The department says there are over 14,000 openings on its job board website.
Drinkworks, which was introducing new products as recently as October, has stopped selling its home bar systems and is offering refunds to all customers who purchased one of its appliances until the end of February.
The company, operating under the name Bedford Systems, was authorized for a Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) award of up to $1.4 million in 2018. VEGI payments are doled out over several years, if a company meets job creation and capital investment targets.
Drinkworks received a portion of its VEGI funds, which will be recaptured by the Department of Taxes, according to draft meeting minutes of the Vermont Economic Progress Council, the government body that oversees VEGI. The exact amount the company received, and when it might be recaptured, is confidential, according to the Tax Department.
Drinkworks was Keurig’s second attempt to launch a cold beverage system to complement its eponymous coffee maker. The first attempt, known as Keurig Kold, was a joint effort with Coca-Cola. Pods for the Keurig Kold system were also manufactured in Williston. The product was discontinued in 2016, which led to the layoff of 108 workers in Vermont.
Keurig Dr Pepper, which has roots in Vermont’s Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, has significantly reduced its footprint in Waterbury in recent years, though it maintains operations in Williston and Essex Junction.