Perhaps more than any year since the 1990s acquisitions race, 2006 has started out with a bang in terms of buyouts of dairy and cheese companies.
Last month Prairie Farms Dairy Inc., Carlinville, Ill., acquired Turner Dairy Holdings LLC, Covington, Tenn. Turner Dairies is one of the largest independent dairies in the Southeastern United States, with five plants in Tennessee and Arkansas. Prairie Farms owns 17 of its own plants in the Midwest and mid-south.
Also in March, Mid-West Dairymen, Rockford, Ill., said it would purchase cheesemaker Schullsburgh Creamery, Schullsburgh, Wis., an outfit which had been laboring under a heavy debt.
These deals follow a late-February announcement that Dallas-based Fairmount Food Group added another Wisconsin cheese company to its portfolio. The group, led by dairy industry veteran Bing Graffunder, purchased Green Bay Cheese Co. for an undisclosed amount. A cut-and-wrap operation employing 200, Green Bay will retain its name, and its management.
Also in February, Giant Food LLC said it was selling its dairy operation and processing plant in Landover, Md., to the Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative. That sale marks Giant's exit from food manufacturing-part of a refocusing effort after years of sluggish performance following its purchase by Dutch-owned Royal Ahold in 1998.