Three years ago, around this time, Dairy Foods recognized this year's Processor of the Year-Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H.-as the Best New Products Company of the Year.

Donna Berry, Product Development Editor
Three years ago, around this time, Dairy Foods recognized this year's Processor of the Year-Stonyfield Farm, Londonderry, N.H.-as the Best New Products Company of the Year. And each year since, the company has qualified to take home the award again.

Now, many of you may consider me to be biased towards Stonyfield, as I frequently write about the company's product introductions and promotional efforts. I also rave about Stonyfield products in presentations I give on trends. Indeed, in my eyes, Stonyfield epitomizes innovation.

But let me assure you, I have no stock in the company. (Even if I did, Groupe Danone would be buying it from me next month.) Nor am I related to anyone involved with the company. However, I did travel six years ago with Stonyfield's Kasi Reddy, v.p. of R&D, quality assurance and contract manufacturing, to Sweden to learn about the company's proprietary sixth beneficial bacteria-Lactobacillus reuteri. This was before Stonyfield obtained the exclusive license to use this probiotic in U.S. yogurt products.

I admit it! I am one Stonyfield's biggest fans, and I'm a loyal customer. In fact, my sons are growing up with daily doses of Stonyfield products. Now, of course, one does not become a winner based on Berry household consumption patterns. What counts is how a company performs in the industry, and how it is accepted by the trade and by everyday consumers.

So here's what happened. The members of Dairy Foods' editorial advisory board chose Stonyfield Farm as Processor of the Year from a group of five outstanding nominees. Many key leaders who we talk to on a regular basis in the industry, (you know, our springboard for topics of interest), agreed that Stonyfield was a great choice. We knew consumers, retailers and global powerhouse Groupe Danone believe in Stonyfield. After all, as Dairy Foods' Chief Editor Dave Phillips points out in the Processor of the Year feature, within 20 years, Stonyfield has grown from a yogurt company run by a couple of beatnik environmentalist entrepreneurs to a $150 million-plus company, growing at an annual rate of 25%. Few, if any other U.S. dairies have done that simply by extending product lines and increasing distribution.

Now I have to be honest, when Stonyfield became the obvious winner for Processor of the Year, I was the staff member who hesitated. Sorry Gary!

My reason? Dairy Foods, along with many trade and consumer magazines, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, (you get my drift), have frequently written about Stonyfield. I thought, maybe the dairy industry has been saturated with Stonyfield and does not need to hear about the company any more. And then, I had a revelation. What the industry needs, is to hear Stonyfield's story from someone who does not know the company all that well; someone who hadn't tasted the company's first attempt at chocolate yogurt more than 10 years ago (oops, sorry Kasi!). So here's a fresh perspective. Read Dave's feature story that begins on page 24. Then go out and buy some Stonyfield yogurt. The drinkable is outstanding. You will concur that Stonyfield Farm is the obvious winner. Congratulations, Stonyfield!

Processor of the Year Criteria

  • Financial and management success.
  • Market leadership (including new product development, marketing and innovations that spur the industry).
  • Industry service.
  • Commitment to quality.

Past Recipients of Dairy Foods' Processor of the Year

2002 Marigold Foods
2001 HP Hood
2000 Leprino Foods
1999 Suiza Foods
1998 Dean Foods
1997 Mid-American Dairymen
1996 Agropur Cooperative
1995 Good Humor-Breyers
1994 Darigold
1993 Anderson Erickson
1992 Ault Foods
1991 Dean Foods
1990 Wells' Dairy
1989 Wessanen USA (tie)
Land O' Lakes (tie)
1988 Mid-American Dairymen
1987 Borden
1986 Southland Dairies Group
1985 Mayfield Dairy Farms
1984 Land O' Lakes
1983 Kroger Co.
1982 Mid-American Dairymen
1981 Knudsen Corp.
1980 Dean Foods