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Bristol’s Sojo Industries is using robotics to streamline the beverage packing industry

The startup is led by Barak Bar-Cohen, the former COO of Bai Brands, and backed by more than $12 million, with a goal to expand to industries like health and beauty.

Sojo Industries' warehouse. (Courtesy Sojo Industries)

In Barak Bar-Cohen’s experience, variety packs are the most popular way to sell beverages.

Bar-Cohen was previously the COO of the beverage giant Bai Brands — think teas and fruit drinks — and noticed that variety packs of their products did the best. But the process to create those variety packs required a lot of costly manual labor and transportation of products.

“Most of the way variety packs were done and are still done are manually with gravity-fed rollers and people,” Bar-Cohen told Technical.ly. “Incredibly expensive, incredibly difficult to get out at scale.”

He started the Bucks County-based Sojo Industries in 2021 to work directly with beverage companies to package and ship variety packs of their products more efficiently. Charging companies per product case, Sojo uses robotics and automation in its manufacturing, packaging and transportation processes, which Bar-Cohen calls “mobile manufacturing.”

Barak Bar-Cohen. (Courtesy Sojo Industries)

The 53-person company is also in the process of developing software called Sojo Shield that tracks and traces products. The system includes QR codes for all the products that can be scanned to get important information, especially if products are recalled for some reason.

“We’re bringing automation, we’re bringing robotics and we’re bringing mobility to an industry that is still predominantly in the manual mindset,” Bar-Cohen said.

Sojo’s facilities are located near big manufacturing sites and warehouses to minimize transportation for products. The company is headquartered in Bristol, but also has locations in Florence, New Jersey; Indianapolis; and Redlands, California. The goal is to open facilities in southern California and Texas, too.

“The idea is really just to have a national footprint where we’re strategically located next to manufacturing facilities and big warehouses,” Bar-Cohen said. “So we’re really minimizing you know, the freight and the transport by being located there.”

Sojo raised $2.8 million this year after previously raising more than $10 million, and Bar-Cohen aims to raise another round at the end of 2023 into 2024. He said the money will be used to continue improving the technology and building out its national presence.

Right now the company is focused on working with beverage brands, but Bar-Cohen would like to expand to snacks, health and beauty — even pharmaceutical brands to automate their manufacturing processes.

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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