Though some dairies saw sales fall last year, others reported increases. As they looked at the long-term prospects of the industry, businesses opened their checkbooks to acquire companies and to expand their processing capabilities.
Just as Dairy Foods was wrapping up its research into the 100 largest dairy processors in North America, the French dairy giant Danone announced it was buying Colorado-based WhiteWave Foods, a processor of organic dairy and plant-based beverages.
It was one of 12 food processing facilities nominated for the award. Dairy Foods invited the dairy industry to vote and help select the recipient. During a five-week period ending July 6, more than 3,500 votes were cast.
In 2015 Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma told a CNBC interviewer that the time to worry about next quarter was two or three years ago. If you are thinking today about what you are going to do in the next three months, you’ll be in trouble, he said.
The 100 largest dairy processors in North America clearly are planning ahead. They are building new plants and adding to existing ones, even though at least 30% of the companies reported lower sales in 2015 than in 2014. They are not going to let a one-year blip derail their plans for the future.
What’s for breakfast? Increasingly, it’s not a traditional meal of cereal and milk or bacon and eggs served at home. Instead, grab-and-go nutritional and performance drinks are a popular meal option. That’s a threat to dairy companies, especially those that make milk, cheese and yogurt.
In head-to-head comparisons, nutrient-dense dairy foods beat their analog counterparts. Perhaps the new FDA labeling requirements will help the dairy industry to push back against claims by plant-based products.
Rob Graves is a dairy farmer and dairy processor who owns Morning Fresh Dairy in Bellvue, Colo. He sells his white and flavored milks up and down the front range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Business was good for the fourth-generation farmer. Demand was growing from home delivery customers, restaurants and Whole Foods. Graves had plans to expand the milk processing plant. That is, until yogurt got in the way.
Based in Colorado but with roots in Australia, noosa yoghurt has disrupted dairy aisles throughout the United States. Innovative flavors and see-through packaging help the product stand out on grocers’ shelves.
When Whole Foods said it wanted to carry pints of The Comfy Cow’s super-premium ice cream, the founders invested in a bigger plant and additional equipment. A growing franchise operation also is creating demand.
In 2015, The Comfy Cow invested a reported $2 million in the building it’s leasing in the Regency Pointe Business Center in Louisville’s Jeffersontown neighborhood. Over the next 10 years, the project is expected to create 40 to 50 new jobs. Currently there are 14 employees. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved tax incentives up to $350,000.
At issue is a World Health Organization proposal written in January that seeks to prohibit the promotion of milk and milk products to children under the age of three. In April, The National Milk Producers Federation (representing dairy farmers) and the International Dairy Foods Association (representing dairy processors) urged members of Congress to insist upon a more thorough analysis of the proposal.