Varni Brothers Corp.

Varni Brothers continuously adds to its capabilities and has become a highly regarded beverage co-packer and distributor.

For more than 80 years, Varni Brothers has continuously added to its capabilities and become a highly regarded beverage co-packer and distributor. By Eric Slack With roots stretching back to the 1930s, Varni Brothers Corp. is today one of the most versatile beverage packers in the United States. California’s sole remaining family owned franchise bottler of any major soft drink brand, Varni Brothers is well positioned for success in the rapidly evolving beverage industry.

“We have became one of the most versatile packers out of necessity,” President Anthony Varni says. “The beverage industry changes so quickly and we have to adapt to changes and try to stay ahead. That takes time, commitment, leadership and an open mind.”

Strong Track Record
When it was founded in 1933 by Varni’s grandfather, Attilio Varni, the company cut its teeth bottling, labeling and delivering local wine from casks and barrels to restaurants and taverns in the Modesto area. In 1936, the company took advantage of the opportunity to purchase the franchise rights to bottle and distribute what was then a young, up-and-coming brand: 7up. It remains one of the few independent franchise bottlers left in the United States.

Over the years, Attilio’s sons, Louie, John and Fred – the Varni Brothers – continued to expand the business, growing its geographic footprint, adding to its capabilities and creating new lines of business. As its line of beverages expanded further, it worked with brands such as Rockstar, A&W, Sunkist, RC Cola, Canada Dry, Sparkling Ice, Snapple, SunnyD, Cock’n Bull, Cheerwine, and Vita Coco.

It also developed the Varni-owned trademark, NOAH’S California Spring Water, utilizing an 8.4pH spring source that is also a good source of natural magnesium. Additionally, Varni developed a new premium craft soda, Nella Bella Almond Fizz and Chocolate Almond Fizz, made with Noah’s Spring Water, cane sugar and only 40 calories per bottle.

Today, under third generation management, its Modesto state-of-the-art, beverage facility is one of the most versatile in the country in terms of its size and packaging lineups. Its production capabilities include two bottling lines and two canning lines, a dedicated wine line, and Varni Brothers can produce carbonated and non-carbonated beverages.

With business interests in the packaging and distribution spheres, Varni Brothers works to understand the needs of its customers in both arenas. On the distribution side of the business, service to local customers is priority No. 1.

“We are their local distributor, with an 80-year reputation for service and integrity,” Varni says. “We are much smaller than the corporate competition that surrounds us, but we can still be better. That starts with good people who work in our sales, delivery and merchandising teams. They care about providing our brands to our customers in the most efficient and accommodating process possible, representing our company as an extension of the Varni Family.”

As for its co-packing customers, Varni says they usually come to Varni Brothers looking for solutions. “Our suppliers often refer us to potential customers,” he says. “Being versatile helps. Once we open a conversation with a potential new customer, they are usually surprised to find out just how many packaging and secondary packaging options are available to them at our facility. Most customers are surprised about the amount of time we take in our first phone conversation. Some have packaging dreams that even we cannot fulfill, but at least they are given practical options that are within our abilities.”

Always on the Move
Varni Brothers is looking constantly at ways to grow and do more with what it has. Whether it is new change parts for an emerging bottle size, or rinser adaptations to run a different can height, Varni Brothers is always open to improvement opportunities.

“We’ve been improving and expanding our production facility in phases non-stop over the last 15 years,” Varni says. “We completed the installation of our new bottling line just under two years ago, which consisted of a new depalletizer heading to a rinser, a new blending system and 70-valve filler followed by four cappers, a bottle warmer/chiller, two labelers with multiple capabilities, and two packers leading to a palletizer. That bottling line is capable of filling glass, PET, different aluminum bottle styles, and 24-ounce CapCans. Noah’s Spring Water recently became the first bottled water brand to utilize the eco-friendly 24-ounce container. We have produced soft drinks, mixers, bottled water, energy drinks, wine spritzers, hard ciders, wine coolers and craft sodas in many different packages.”

Other recent improvements include installation of a Stack Wine production line, providing some equipment and piping and converting about 15,000 square feet of warehouse space to include new drains, sloped floors and new surface for the installation of the product-specific filler, sealer, stacker, labelers and packers. Varni Brothers also completed its batching room expansion, almost doubling its batch tank capacity.

Quality is another ongoing focus for the company. Varni says quality starts with an effective Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan loaded with standard operating procedures as an SQF-certified plant. “Our quality assurance team is well known for attention to detail, catching packaging defects and issues before they become potential problems,” he says.

Looking forward, Varni Brothers will work to ensure that it is keeping the bottling lines running more consistently. Elevating its efficiency rates is also very important, especially considering the increasing costs impacting its industry.

“Rising costs have forced us to get smarter about production planning, reducing downtime and investing more in preventative maintenance,” Varni says. “It is challenging to stay competitive as a bottler in California, where costs are higher. As a distributor, costs are increasing but the margins are tightening, which makes it challenging to provide the level of frequent service our customers have learned to expect from us.”

Be that as it may, Varni Brothers is confident about its strategic directions, now with a team that includes fourth-generation family representation. It plans to continue its quest to be the most relevant bottler and canner on the West Coast for soft drinks, bottled water, energy drinks, wine and hard cider. “Seeing our facility in action allows you to appreciate all we can do,” Varni says. “It is exciting to see the whole process, especially when all five production lines are running completely different types of products at once.”


Varni Brothers Corp.

Headquarters: Modesto, Calif.

Employees: 285

Specialty: Beverage co-packing and distribution

Anthony Varni, president: “The beverage industry changes so quickly and we have to adapt to changes and try to stay ahead.”