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Starbucks to open bigger juice plant for Evolution

SEATTLE (AP) -- Starbucks Corp. will open a bigger juice factory in Southern California to fuel the growth of its Evolution Fresh bottled drinks.

The Seattle-based company said Wednesday the plant will be operational late next year and will more than quadruple its production and distribution capacity. The 120 workers at the current plant in San Bernardino, Calif., will be offered one of the 160 positions at the new plant in Rancho Cucamonga, which will be 260,000 square feet.

As Starbucks' ubiquitous cafes faces stiffer competition from fast food chains serving specialty coffees, the company has increasingly been looking to expand into other fast-growing areas, such as premium juices.

The ready-to-serve premium juice market has been a bright spot in the broader U.S. beverage market. Volume of premium juices was up 25 percent in the second quarter, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest, with brands such as Bolthouse, Naked and Odwalla seeing significant gains.

Starbucks purchased the Evolution Fresh brand late last year for $30 million. The California-based company uses fresh fruits and a process called high-pressure pasteurization to make the juice without heating it. Starbucks says that gives Evolution juices an advantage over competitors, since more of the nutrients are preserved.

Evolution Fresh juices are sold in supermarkets including Ralphs, Safeway, Whole Foods, as well as at independent health food stores.

Last month, Campbell Soup Co. said it would buy premium juice maker Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion as part of its push to expand into fresher foods.