Adding to the Mix

Putting a new facility and established supply chain to work, Black Fly Beverage Co. ramps up its contract production and co-packing business

Photo: Black Fly Beverage Co. founders Cathy Siskind-Kelly and Rob Kelly

ONE OBVIOUS EXPLANATION for the ongoing success of Black Fly Beverage Co. is the company’s relentless pursuit of new drinks, new flavours and new packaging. That creativity is represented by its newest product: Tequila Shaker Shots. The mixture of lemon and lime juices, carbonated soda, a hint of salt and 17 per cent Mexican tequila comes in a 50 mL plastic test tube with a screw top. Shake, open and enjoy.

But new products alone cannot explain the company’s recent move to a 60,000-square-foot Highbury Avenue facility, situated next to an even larger building it may take over one day.

Behind the scenes, Black Fly has become a high-tech ­production and bottling juggernaut. Not only does it produce and sell a wide variety of premium ready-to-drink spirit beverages across Canada and in the U.S.—with double-digit annual growth—it contracts with some of its competitors to produce their drinks. It even sells cans to producers caught short by the ebb and flow of production and demand schedules.

“We’ve always felt if you’re going to be an independent Canadian company, you need to offer something great,” says Cathy Siskind-Kelly, co-founder in 2005 with husband, Rob Kelly. “So, we will always innovate and offer new products and packaging. But we have developed several other businesses, too.”

One such business is co-packing for other companies in the ready-to-drink Canadian market. “We have a state-of-the-art co-packing facility now. We have started with a couple of customers and plan to grow wisely, but the demand is such that we could run our canning line 24/7,” she says.

“We have a state-of-the-art co-packing facility now. We have started with a couple of customers and plan to grow wisely, but the demand is such that we could run our canning line 24/7” —Cathy Siskind-Kelly

Black Fly only co-packs canned products. It retains its funky plastic bottles and other packaging for its own line of products. Creativity is just as important in the production details as in product development. The company employs two full-time millwrights whose job it is to innovate on the production side of the business.

It’s not just cans where Black Fly’s established supply chain is an advantage. It sells bulk alcohol and bulk syrup to ­beverage makers. “We buy so much of both that we have strong relationships with suppliers,” Rob Kelly says. “So, we could create a new business selling bulk supplies, along with empty cans.”

It’s a much smaller scale version of what Amazon has done, selling cloud computing service to corporations around the world through its Amazon Web Services ­subsidiary, to support its primary retail function.

With about 40 employees, mostly in London, plus dozens of summer students hired as sales reps, Black Fly continues to grow. The move to Highbury is just the latest indication of the company’s success. Christopher Clark

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