The nation’s largest dairy processor is getting even larger, announcing acquisitions in the Midwest and California.

Dean grabs Santee, plus Foremost fluid plants
The nation’s largest dairy processor is getting even larger, announcing acquisitions in the Midwest and California.

Stater Bros. Markets, San Bernardino, Calif., announced April 13 it has “agreed in principle” to sell its Santee Dairies to Dallas-based Dean Foods. And on April 1, Wisconsin-based Foremost Farms USA announced the sale of its two milk processing plants, along with its GG Golden Guernsey Dairy and Morning Glory brands, to Dean.

“The future growth of Santee Dairies’ products was limited because most potential customers are competing supermarket chains that already operate their own dairies and have been advised by their parent corporations not to purchase products, other than Knudsen fluid milk and Arnold Palmer Tee, from Santee Dairies, which they feel would help with the expansion of Stater Bros. Markets,” said Jack Brown, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Stater Bros. Holdings Inc. “At Stater Bros., we try to do the right thing for the right reason. The right thing is to sell Santee Dairy to Dean Foods … to ensure the continued growth of Santee. The right reason is to protect the future of the Santee family of employees.”

The transaction is expected to be completed within the next few months. Stater Bros. Markets have served consumers in Southern California for more than seven decades.

In the Foremost deal, Dean acquired the Golden Guernsey and Morning Glory labels, according to Joan Behr, Foremost Farms’ director of communications. “Their intent is to continue marketing milk under both labels,” Behr said.

No change in work force is planned for the two Wisconsin fluid plants. The Waukesha plant, which employs 146 people, packages fluid milk and manufactures ice cream mix. The De Pere plant packages fluid milk and manufactures sour cream and employs 136.

“As food retailers consolidate to gain market share and operating efficiencies, Foremost Farms has been challenged to efficiently supply customers who have a significant regional or national presence and prefer to have a sole supplier,” explained David Fuhrmann, Foremost Farms president. “We are confident that these plants have a better chance for success by being part of Dean Foods, the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in the country. This is a win-win for both parties.”

Strategically, the move allows Foremost Farms to focus on processing and marketing cheese, dairy ingredients and butter for national and international customers and marketing bulk fluid milk to processors in the region. “These markets hold growth opportunities for Foremost Farms that will continue to provide our dairy farmer-members with a financially strong market for their milk,” Fuhrmann said.

As part of the sales agreement, Foremost Farms will continue supplying bulk fluid milk to both plants. Foremost Farms is a cooperative with 2,350 dairy farmer-members who live in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Dean Foods is the largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products in America, selling products under more than 50 familiar local and regional brands. It manufactures products in more than 100 facilities in 36 states and employs more than 26,000 people.

MilkPEP Celebrates Hispanic Heritage
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month in September, the Milk Processor Education Program is launching a new promotion that encourages families to enjoy time together cooking.

“New Family Traditions” provides tips for moms on incorporating milk in recipes. In-store recipe tear-pads will feature five recipes with ingredients to be purchased during the shopping trip. Shoppers can download full recipes at, and enter an online contest and vote.

MilkPEP also is offering a sweepstakes where processors will be automatically entered to win one of six trips to Walt Disney World when they sign up a retail account, earning an additional entry for each account enrolled in the promotion.

“This not only rewards those processors who routinely participate but also encourages new participation,” said Julia Kadison, vice president of marketing for MilkPEP. “Moms know that milk is good for their families and this promotion will showcase the many ways.”

Additional information on the promotion is available at Processors must register before June 15 by calling the Milk Hotline at 800/945-MILK.

Expansion Coming at Southwest Cheese
Glanbia and its U.S. joint-venture partner, the Greater Southwest Agency, have announced a further $90 million expansion of Southwest Cheese, their cheese-and-whey manufacturing operation in New Mexico. The expansion project, expected to increase plant capacity by 33%, will be funded largely from the business.

Commissioning of the expansion is expected in 2010. Once fully commissioned, the expansion will see annual capacity at the site boosted to just over 4 billion pounds of milk, yielding  400 million pounds of cheese and 26 million pounds of high-value-added whey proteins.

“From commissioning of the facility in October 2006 to today, this business has grown significantly to where it is now operating at full capacity, processing over 2.7 billion pounds of milk annually,” said John Moloney, Glanbia’s group managing director. “Southwest Cheese is operationally excellent and has performed strongly, which is a great tribute to our joint venture partner, the people, plant and processes. Against this background and bearing in mind that markets for American-style cheddar cheese and high protein whey products are growing, combined with consistently strong milk supply in the region, we felt there was a strong rationale for expansion.”

Mike McCloskey, chairman of Southwest Cheese, added “The success of Southwest Cheese is a reflection of [our] strong partnership. We are pleased to have joined forces with an operating partner of Glanbia’s caliber, which has such a strong reputation for developing and operating large-scale, efficient facilities.”

IDDBA’s Show & Sell Center Aims to Inspire
The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association will present its Show & Sell Center Merchandising Pavilion at the association’s 45th annual seminar and expo, June 7-9 in Atlanta.

The Show & Sell Center is a 10,000-square-foot idea showcase created by retailers and other food professionals, committed to highlighting new products, themes and merchandising ideas. The combination of strong visuals from the hundreds of creative merchandising displays, planned themes, the take-home resource book and handouts deliver a visual blueprint for creating strong, customer-oriented displays.

Plus, patrons are invited to stop by the Show & Sell Center and sign up for a free photo CD that highlights the displays and merchandising ideas.

All Stars Awarded at 51st Convention
The All Star Dairy Association held its 51st annual convention March 11-15, with another record attendance of 49 dairy, water and custom-mold members representing 94 plants. The convention featured the theme “Survival in Today’s Economy,” and headliners spoke on ways members could become more profitable via pricing, savings, efficiency and operational changes.

The group elected new board members: Brian Perry with Perry’s Ice Cream; Novile Ramsey of Milkco Inc.; Richard Shehadey of Producers Dairy; and Richard Washburn from Washburn’s Ice Cream. Additionally, H.E. Butt Dairy received the Dairy of the Year Award, and Country Classic Dairies and Guers Dairy won the Purchasing Awards.

Quality Assurance Awards went BGC Manufacturing for best fluid plant, best ice cream plant, best sour cream and best yogurt; Upstate Niagara for best buttermilk and best cottage cheese; Schneider Valley Farms for best ice cream mix and Toft Dairy for most improved plant.   

Wisconsin Reigns With Cheese
Wisconsin reaffirmed its national leadership in cheese by taking top honors and receiving 115 awards at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. The state dominated the contest’s 64 categories, claiming 64% for best of class, 59% for second place and 55% for third.

A record 1,360 entries from 32 states vied for this year’s title at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. For two days, expert judges tested the flavor, body, texture, salt, color, finish and packaging of each entry and gave an average score.

“Wisconsin cheesemakers continue to show, year after year, that this state is home to some of the finest craftsmen in the world,” said Patrick Geoghegan, senior vice president of corporate communications for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. “We are truly pleased with this year’s exceptional showing and commend Wisconsin cheesemakers for their dedication to the highest quality products.”

In addition, Sartori Food Corp.’s SarVecchio Parmesan, an extra-aged cheese offering a crumbly texture and deep nutty and sweet overtones, was honored as U.S. Champion.

More information is at and 

AMPI Reports Record Growth
Leaders of Minnesota-based Associated Milk Producers Inc. reported record milk volume and sales growth for 2008.

“AMPI grew with its members-owners who marketed 6% more milk than the previous year,” Ed Welch, AMPI president and CEO, told to 400 annual meeting delegates and guests gathered in Bloomington, Minn. “A record 5.8 billion pounds of milk, combined with strong dairy product markets and AMPI sales, resulted in $1.7 billion of revenue.”

AMPI exceeded annual budget expectations with $11 million in earnings from operations, before inventory adjustment. Earnings were bolstered by strong domestic sales of bulk natural cheese, as well as consumer-packaged cheese and butter.

In detailing AMPI 2008 results, Welch said the cooperative recognized a $14.9 million loss due to the devaluation of dairy product inventory by year’s end.  The markets also affected on-farm milk prices, Welch said. Prices plummeted in early 2009, following two years of near-record milk prices.