Murray • Steve Evans is now one step closer to expanding his liquid dietary supplement manufacturing business to include all-natural juice-vodka cocktails, a step he believes will generate more jobs and profit.
Murray's Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to grant Evans a conditional use permit that, pending rigorous state and federal approvals, will allow VM Nutritional Inc. to package the single-serve adult juice drinks.
Before the recession hit, the research, development and production facility at 79 W. 4500 South employed 57 workers, but its workforce has since shrunk to 11. In 2008, the company generated $4.8 million in revenue, but the economy stalled and this year Evans expects to make about $1.2 million.
"So you can see that we'd love to have a project like this," Evans said. "It means a lot to us and would mean a lot to the employees we could bring back."
His unique packaging plan involves two bottles that snap together the larger one for juice and the smaller for a shot of 40-proof vodka. Separate production lines would fill the bottles with the appropriate liquids, then the units would combine to get shrink-wrapped with sleeves and then packed 24 to a case.
A nearby homeowner rose to speak against the venture, voicing concerns about any spillage or waste that could occur during production.
"You're right on top of a residential area," said Murray resident George Krebs. "To have alcohol and children close together could be a bad mix."
Evans said the new product line will be highly regulated and his business will not distill, brew or serve alcohol. The vodka, delivered in 270-gallon totes, will be dispensed by machine into the small snap-on bottles.
"We have to keep track of every dram of alcohol that comes in to the facility," Evans said. "So we don't get to sample it. The regulations are very tight."
By November, Evans hopes to roll out pilot batches of the adult juice drinks and then ship the new product to liquor stores nationwide by early 2013. He anticipates producing 250,000 of the ready-to-mix cocktails per day, 10 days per month at first.
VM Nutritional has operated at its Murray location for seven years, Evans said, and has developed over a thousand different products that are sold by multi-level marketers and major corporations including Costco, Nestles and Pepsico.