Giant Eagle has pipped Cadbury Schweppes' Americas unit to acquire a bottling and water plant from bankrupt soft drinks company Le-Nature's in the US.

The US grocery chain confirmed today (13 August) that it bought Le-Nature's facility in Latrobe, Pennsylvania for US$20m in a courtroom auction. Local reports have claimed that the bid beat Cadbury Schweppes, which had gone as high as $19m.

No-one was available to confirm these reports at Cadbury Schweppes when contacted by just-drinks today.

Giant Eagle said that it will create 50 full-time jobs at the site, which, once fully restored, will operate under the name Chestnut Ridge Beverage Company. The facility will produce Giant Eagle corporate brand bottled waters, RTD teas and other beverages.

"As a company founded in Pittsburgh and with retail locations throughout western Pennsylvania, Giant Eagle is thrilled to help revive this company and this community," said Giant Eagle special counsel Dan Shapira. "This plant will also allow Giant Eagle to greatly enhance its growing beverage business."

The site should be operational in around eight weeks' time, Giant Eagle said, with preferred consideration being given to Le-Natures' former employees for the new jobs.

Le-Nature's filed for bankruptcy in early 2006, after a judge had ruled that the company might have engaged in potential criminal activity. Financial statements from the company had showed discrepancies and insufficient cash to support disbursed cheques and overdue debts totalling more than US$10m.