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Alliance Hosts Food & Beverage Processing Journalists

This July, the Alliance conducted a media tour of the region by hosting three journalists covering the food and beverage processing sector. This three-day tour took the journalists through seven localities and showcased all aspects of the food and beverage processing sector in Hampton Roads.

The journalists arrived on Monday, July 15, and after settling into their accommodations were welcomed with dinner at Varia in downtown Norfolk. The group was joined by members of the Alliance as well as the economic development directors from Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Portsmouth.

Tuesday began with a regional overview and industry review over a working breakfast at the Alliance office. This included a presentation of important regional assets of the food and beverage processing industry.

Following the regional overview, the group boarded a van to the peninsula, stopping first at Chesapeake Bay Packing in Newport News. Chesapeake Bay Packing is a premier processor and packer of high-quality frozen and fresh scallop products for domestic and worldwide distribution. Their waterfront facility allows CBP to quickly harvest and prepare their product. The company combines modernized fishing vessels, state-of-the-art processing and on-site distribution and logistics to control the entire process from harvest to shipment. This vertical integration lends to an exceptional finished product that is enjoyed across the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Asia. 

The tour of the food and beverage assets on the peninsula continued with a tour at Oozlefinch Craft Brewery in Hampton. Oozlefinch is one of many craft breweries that has popped up in Hampton Roads in the last few years, but it is the only one that calls a decommissioned military base—Hampton's Fort Monroe—home. Oozlefinch prides itself on its rich history and tradition, including its namesake, the Oozlefinch.  The brewery tour concluded with a tasting of several of Oozlefinch's best beers, including their award-winning sours. The tour then moved to the Vanguard in Hampton, where the group enjoyed lunch with staff from Hampton Economic Development. 

Tuesday’s tour resumed on the southside of Hampton Roads with a presentation by the Port of Virginia at Virginia International Gateway (VIG), one of the Port's four terminals in Hampton Roads. Located along the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, VIG is the largest privately-owned container terminal in the United States. VIG is one of the only functional automated container terminals in the Western Hemisphere and sits on a total footprint of 576 acres. In July, the Port of Virginia’s $320 million expansion at VIG was completed. The 800-foot extension allows the terminal to service as many as three Ultra-Large Container Vessels simultaneously. VIG also now has 26 new rail-mounted gantry cranes to support 13 new container stacks. Following the presentation, the visit to VIG included a bus tour of the terminal and a guided behind-the-scenes look at the operations floor, where skilled technicians control the ship-to-shore cranes and assist the automated gantries that keep the terminal running at peak performance.  

Tuesday concluded with a trip to the Virginia Beach oceanfront, where guests enjoyed a happy hour at Tarnished Truth Distilling Company at the beautifully renovated, Cavalier Hotel.  Inspired by the prohibition, Tarnished Truth is the first and only distillery located inside of a working hotel in the United States. All equipment used in the distillery is hand-made in America from some of the finest copper and brass still manufacturers in the world. Guests got to see the step-by-step process that goes into each of Tarnished Truth's spirits and had the opportunity to taste several in a private tasting room at the close of the tour. Following the tour and tasting, dinner was served at Becca, where members of Virginia Beach Economic Development and the Virginia Beach Director of Agriculture, David Trimmer, joined.

Day three of the media tour started in Isle of Wight County at Smithfield Foods' Innovation Center. The group was joined by several members of Smithfield's staff for a working breakfast and presentation, followed by a tour of the Innovation Center. Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork processor, has called Hampton Roads home for more than 80 years. Today, they employ over 54,000 employees and sell to more than 5,700 customers in 43 countries around the world, totaling more than $15B in sales in 2018. 

The morning continued with a stop at Neighborhood Harvest's hydroponic farm in Suffolk. Founded in 2014 as a basil farm, Neighborhood Harvest now operates a 19,000 square foot greenhouse where they grow  produce year around, which is then delivered to the doors of more than 4,000 customers across Hampton Roads. The company prides itself on supplying beyond organic produce to it's customers within one day of harvesting, but has recently collaborated with other local small businesses across Virginia to provide additional products to their customers. Individuals can now conveniently order everything from organic dairy, to fresh baked bread, to cold press coffee and juices and even pasture raised proteins, all of which will be delivered alongside their produce. 

The group enjoyed lunch at Amici's in Suffolk, before their final facility tour of the day at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA's roasting operations. The Suffolk facility also serves as the U.S. headquarters for the Italian based corporation. MZB is the largest veritically integrated coffee company and the single largest supplier of private label packaged coffee in the U.S. The visit included a tour of their facility to see the entire process a coffee bean goes through—from first arriving on a truck to the final product heading out the door to MZB's  distribution center in the neighboring City of Portsmouth. The Suffolk facility roasts enough beans every day to brew on average 20 million cups of coffee! 

At the close of the media trip,  guests enjoyed one last happy hour with friends from Portsmouth Economic Development at Legend Brewing Depot on the Portsmouth waterfront.

The Alliance would to thank all of the localities and companies who helped make this food and beverage tour a success, as well as the following journalists for their participation. Be sure to click through to read what the journalists thought of the tour.  

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