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Winn-Dixie to sell beverage plant

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. has agreed to sell its Deep South beverage manufacturing facility in Fitzgerald, Ga., to Polar Beverages

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. has agreed to sell its Deep South beverage manufacturing facility in Fitzgerald, Ga., to Polar Beverages

The Southeast supermarket chain said late Wednesday that the sale of the plant to Worcester, Mass.-based Polar Beverages, which is effective April 29, signals the completion of its program to sell all noncore manufacturing operations.

Plans call for Polar to continue operating the facility, and Winn-Dixie said it has negotiated a five-year pact with the beverage company to be the exclusive supplier of its Chek carbonated soft drinks.

"In 2005, Winn-Dixie announced a strategy that would allow the company to focus on its core business: operating grocery stores that provide our guests with superior service, great selection and variety. Part of this mission included Winn-Dixie exiting our manufacturing operations," Bennett Nussbaum, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Winn-Dixie, said in a statement.

Polar said it plans to operate the Fitzgerald plant as it is today, with minimal change to employees or their wages and benefits. Once the sale is finalized, employees of the facility are slated to become Polar employees.

The nation’s largest independent soft-drink bottler, Polar Beverages offers a portfolio of beverages — including regular and diet flavors, seltzers and mixers — that are available in more than 20 states.

"The Fitzgerald bottling facility ideally fits Polar’s southern growth strategy," stated Ralph Crowley Jr., president and chief executive officer of Polar. "We have had the opportunity to meet with many of the Winn-Dixie associates and have tremendous respect for their capabilities. Polar Beverages is looking forward to growing the business together."


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