ABE Innovation and Technology Center

Nebraska Governor Ricketts with ABE VP Adam Kosmicki

Courtesy of Lincoln Journal Star
Matt Olberding

Three years ago, Norland International had no sales at all related to the craft beer industry.

This year, if projections pan out, the company should see about $30 million in sales, just for the craft beer market, said President Mike McFarland, noting that most of the company's growth in the past couple of years has come from craft beer.

"For us it's extremely dynamite. It's terrific," McFarland said.

On Monday, Norland unveiled a new 34,000-square-foot building that will help further that growth.

The company spent $2 million on what it is calling its innovation and technology center. The building is directly north of its existing manufacturing facility at 1941 S.W. Sixth St.

The facility started up about three weeks ago, said Bruce Kucera, Norland's vice president, and houses a new canning line, a high-speed bottling line that accommodates both glass and plastic bottles, a new spirits distillery manufacturing line and a "de-palletizer" that makes unloading and stacking cans easier.

Kucera and McFarland said the company also will be coming out with some more new products, which they declined to describe, in the next few months.

Norland got its start in 1993 as a company that mostly produced plastic bottles used for bottled water.

It decided to get into the craft beer market in 2013, forming American Beer Equipment that year after discussing the growth possibilities in the market with its neighbor, Blue Blood Brewing Co.

Blue Blood is moving out of that space into its new restaurant and brew house at the Robber's Cave site near 10th and High streets, one of many local breweries that have expanded or built new facilities in the past few years.

The number of craft breweries nationwide grew by 15 percent last year while they collectively saw a 13 percent increase in volume and a 16 percent increase in retail dollar value, according to the Brewer's Association.

Norland has leveraged that trend for its growth and also has worked to establish a presence overseas, working with breweries in South America, Australia and New Zealand and Europe.

Overall, between its water and craft brewing operations, the company has a presence in more than 40 countries on six continents.

The expansion also has led to more employees as well. The company has nearly doubled its workforce since 2014, going from 49 employees to 95, and McFarland said it will be looking to hire 12-14 more in the "very near future."