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Dairy Farmers of America has acquired Oakhurst Dairy, a family-owned dairy processor in Portland, Maine. DFA, the Missouri-based national dairy farmer-owned cooperative, acquired another New England processor, Guida's Dairy of Connecticut, in 2011. Terms of the deal were not announced.
Oakhurst will become a wholly owned DFA subsidiary and will continue to operate independently, according to a statement from Oakhurst. The Bennett family has owned Oakhurst since 1921. The existing management team will continue to manage the company’s day-to-day operations. John Bennett and Tom Brigham will continue in their role as co-presidents. All 200 Oakhurst employees will retain their positions
Oakhurst said it will continue to source its milk from its existing 70 Maine farmers and will remained committed to its no artificial growth hormone
Oakhurst Chairman of the Board Bill Bennett (John's older brother) will become a senior advisor. In a statement, he said, “For more than 90 years and three generations, my family has worked hard to build a strong local brand that Maine families trust. We are pleased to entrust the farm families of Dairy Farmers of America to continue our commitment.”
In an interview with Dairy Foods today, Bennett said it was a "happy" and a "sweet" day.
With no fourth-generation family members ready to step in and run the company, Bennett and his brother and four sisters were thinking about the future of the dairy. Talks with DFA about the acquiring Oakhurst started about eight or nine months ago, and then began in earnest after that, he said.
The Maine processor has developed close ties to the communities it serves. Oakhurst gives back 10% of its profits to organizations that serve children and the environment. The company sees these two beneficiaries as tied together. When children are active outdoors (in hiking, camping, fishing and other activities), they are healthier and they develop a respect for preserving and conserving nature, Bill Bennett said.
Dairy Foods reported on Oakhurst in the April 2013 issue. At the time, it wrote:
"Fluid milk processing is a tough business to be in. Being a local brand is certainly an advantage, but it doesn’t make Oakhurst immune from demographic trends and shifts in the way Americans buy and consume food. The company is dealing with national trends, like decreased consumption of milk. That trend is made even worse by Maine’s demographics. The percentage of children age 19 and younger (the prime milk-drinking years) did not change from 2000 to 2010, according to the U. S. Census. Oakhurst also faces strong competition from regional and national brands.
In the face of all of that, Oakhurst is finding a way to succeed. It is the leading brand of fluid dairy products in Maine and parts of northern New England. The company is an innovator in developing “value-added” milks that move the beverage from commodity status to a functional food. Management has dropped business that was unprofitable and sought co-packing accounts to keep the filling lines moving."
Dairy Farmers of America operates as a milk marketing cooperative and a dairy processor with strategic investments in plants, products and partnerships that bring value to its farmer owners. It ranks No. 8 on the Dairy 100, Dairy Foods' list of the largest dairy companies. DFA reported revenues of $3.5 billion in 2012. Oakhurst ranks No. 95 with $99 million.
Besides its acquisition of Guida's, DFA has purchased Kemps in Minnesota (in 2011) and Dairy Maid Dairy in Maryland (in 2013).
“The Bennett family has established Oakhurst as a trusted local brand known for its long-lasting commitment to quality, integrity and freshness,” said Alan Bernon, President of Dairy Farmers of America’s Affiliate Division. “We are pleased to have them join us and are glad the Bennett family will continue to manage operations. As a company committed to doing the right thing for their suppliers, customers, employees and community, the Oakhurst and Dairy Farmers of America values align.”
For more about Oakhurst, read "Oakhurst Dairy is Maine's largest milk processor" and "Filling New England's dairy needs: Inside Oakhurst's plant."