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CAVA dips, spreads carry ‘the essence of Augusta County’s agricultural roots’

CAVA Foods Verona began production on March 4, 2024 at 253 Mill Place Parkway in Verona. Photo courtesy of CAVA.

Augusta County officials, local press and community members were treated Wednesday afternoon to a tour of CAVA Foods Verona‘s 55,000 square-foot facility.

At full capacity, the facility will produce 100,000 pounds of dips, spreads and dressings per day. More than 4 million pounds of tzatziki and 1.5 million pounds of harissa will be produced per year.

“When we designed the building, we did it with the Earth in mind,” said CAVA Chief Manufacturing Officer Chris Penny of the company’s second manufacturing facility.

CAVA Verona uses high-pressure processing (HPP), a cold pasteurization technology that retains the flavor and nutritional benefits of CAVA’s fresh ingredients, with no preservatives. “Pi-tah” is a customized robot that transfers product from the packaging department to the HPP machine, and from the HPP machine to the casing line. A custom, state-of-the-art, and environmentally friendly CO2 refrigeration system cools production and warehouse spaces.

CAVA Foods Verona recycles waste and was built with ecological landscaping of native plants and trees.

The first was built in Laurel, Maryland and uses manual labor for production. CAVA Foods Verona uses high-tech machinery and a robot as well as 25 employees. When a second shift of employees is added, the facility will employ 50.

CAVA Foods Verona will support at least 750 CAVA restaurants and the expansion of the company’s consumer packaged goods business.

“You might also notice that CAVA Foods Verona feels a little different than our typical manufacturing plant,” Penny said of the open floor plan with a focus on team members. “That’s because it’s created with our team in mind.”

Before a ribbon cutting Wednesday afternoon, CAVA Vice President of Menu and Culinary Innovations Owen Klein spoke with visitors about the fresh ingredients used in all CAVA products. He said that the ingredients and putting a green label on products is possible in the Shenandoah Valley at the Verona facility with proximity to local farms.

“It’s a diverse product line that we have right now,” Klein said.

Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick said that the CAVA story inspires her: the founders have been friends since childhood and some are first-generation Americans.

Merrick knows about starting and operating a business in Virginia. She and her husband began an enterprise software company in their basement, which they sold to another company, which recently sold to IBM for $2 billion.

“This is a Virginia story, so thank you, CAVA, for choosing Virginia,” Merrick said at a ribbon cutting ceremony in Verona of the company’s $35 million investment in the Valley.

According to Augusta County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff Slaven, 22 percent of Virginia’s workforce is in manufacturing.

“The investment by CAVA is more than just financial,” Slaven, whose family boasts seven generations of agricultural legacy, said.

CAVA has invested in community.

“I like the idea that CAVA’s dips and spreads carry with them the essence of Augusta County’s agricultural roots and the impact by the quality workforce that this county holds,” Slaven said.

CAVA CEO and cofounder Brett Schulman said CAVA restaurants are operated in Washington, D.C. and 25 states. The company’s goal is to expand to 1,000 restaurants by 2032.

The CAVA story began in 2006 with the company’s first full-service restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. The chef made dips and spreads in a five-pound mixer in the back of the restaurant and a co-founder used a hair dryer to seal the lids of products before delivering them to grocery stores.

“Standing here today, it’s clear Verona was an excellent choice for our second manufacturing facility, and not just because of the beautiful scenery here in the Shenandoah,” Schulman said of CAVA’s new facility, which provides easy access to Interstate 81 and skilled workers,  and a sense of community within Augusta County.

Merrick presented CAVA with a Virginia flag which flew over the Richmond capital and said she hopes the company will erect a flagpole and always fly Virginia’s flag.

“It’s great to be at the table with you,” Schulman said of the Augusta County community.

CAVA to establish production, packaging operation in Augusta County – Augusta Free Press

Mediterranean food manufacturing facility breaks ground in Verona – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.