Diageo has officially opened its new US bottling facility, geared up to help the company's ready-to-serve cocktail portfolio.

Diageo, which announced earlier this year that it will spend US$20.2m on expanding its bottling facility in Plainfield, Illinois, said late last week that the site has now begun operations.

The 44,000 square-foot plant will house a new bottling line for Diageo's line of ready-to-serve cocktails, including Smirnoff Pomegranate Martini, Smirnoff Mojito, and Smirnoff Tuscan Lemonade.

The investment was introduced this year "in order to help meet the rising market demand for ready-to-serve cocktails as consumers entertain more at home", the company said. The expansion followed investments in 2006 and 2007 totalling around $25m.

Diageo also last week highlighted the vote by the Illinois legislature earlier this year to raise excise taxes on spirits by 90%, giving the US state some of the highest alcohol taxes in the country.

"Diageo made the decision to invest in Plainfield well before the Illinois legislature stuck consumers with this unfair tax hike that will hurt the state's tourism industry and cost jobs," said Guy Smith, executive vice president of Diageo North America.

"We will continue to be a positive contributor to the Plainfield and the Illinois community, but these burdensome tax increases make that more difficult, especially in these tough economic times."