The Dallas-based processor retains the top spot on the Dairy 100, our exclusive listing of the largest dairy-food processors in North America.


Dean Foods retained its top spot on the Dairy 100, while Nestlé USA (No.2) and Land O’ Lakes (No. 5) moved to the head of the rankings. Saputo at No. 3 and Kraft at No. 4 round out the Top 5. Rankings are based on 2010 revenues (or most recently completed fiscal year). This is the 18th year that Dairy Foods has compiled a list of North America’s largest dairy processors.

Nestle’s jump is because this year we included sales of its beverages, not just ice cream brands, as was the case in the 2010 report. The revenues shown for the U.S. activities of this Swiss-based company (listings begin on page 66) are estimates. Like many international conglomerates, Nestlé S.A. does not report sales from its operating units. Estimates, which are marked with an asterisk (*), are based on published news reports, business and government databases, industry trends, competitors’ insights or Dairy Foods’ “best guess.”

By and large, the information published in this report comes from the processors themselves. Dairy Foods asked representatives to review and revise previously collected information about their companies’ brands, products and plants.


A year of acquisitions

The dairy processing industry continues to merge and shrink. No. 6 Schreiber Foods announced in January that it was purchasing the customer-brand yogurt business of No. 1 Dean Foods. The acquisition includes production facilities in Fullerton, Calif., and Richland Center, Wis. Last November, Danone, the parent of No. 24 Dannon, said it was buying YoCream International, which ranked No. 98 in last year’s report. No. 11 Dairy Farmers of America acquired Castro Cheese, Houston, in November. In April 2011, DFA said it would buy Kemps from No. 10 H.P. Hood.

Saputo picked up Wisconsin-based Fairmount Cheese Holdings (DCI Cheese) this spring.

General Mills reported it is buying 50% of Yoplait from a private-equity firm in France. (Sodiaal, a French dairy cooperative is retaining the other half.) Rich Products Corp. acquired No. 96 Celebration Foods (maker of ice cream cakes for Carvel and others) in December.

Other changes in the dairy processing community include a new name for Wells Dairy, now known as Wells Enterprises.

Yarnell’s Premium Ice Cream, Searcy, Ark., (last year’s No. 94) closed its doors this year.

“This has been an extremely tough year for the ice cream industry in general, and particularly to regional, independent manufacturers like ourselves,” says Christina Yarnell, chief executive officer.

Last year was a test for No. 1 Dean. Chairman and CEO Gregg Engles said “2010 was an exceptionally difficult year.” In a statement released with its annual earnings statement in February, Engles said, “At Fresh Dairy Direct-Morningstar, wholesale pricing for private label milk remained pressured during the quarter and volume softened. As a consequence, Fresh Dairy Direct-Morningstar operating profit was little changed from the third quarter. We have, however, begun to see signs that the fluid milk category is stabilizing, albeit at historically low levels of profitability. Some retailers have taken early steps to reduce heavy private label promotions and our regional brand volume mix has begun to stabilize. Regional branded milk volumes outperformed private label on a year-over-year basis in the fourth quarter.”

Milk pricing continues to be an issue for every processor. The U.S. House of Representatives will take that up in the 2012 farm bill. The International Dairy Foods Association is lobbying on behalf of its members (processors), while dairy producer groups seek a better deal for themselves. 

Download a PDF of the rankings here.

Jim Carper, chief editor. Erika Flynn provided research assistance in compiling the rankings.

The Largest Dairy Firms in the World

Company    Headquarters    2010 Revenues

1. Nestle    Switzerland    $28 billion

2. Danone    France    $16.4 billion

3. Fonterra    New Zealand    $12.1 billion

4. Lactalis    France    $12.0 billion

5. FrieslandCampina    Netherlands    $11.7 billion

Source: Rabobank International. Note: Dean Foods reported to Dairy Foods 2010 revenues of $12.1 billion.

The Largest Dairy Co-operatives in North America

Company    Headquarters    2010 Revenues

1. Land O’Lakes    St. Paul, MN    $3.708 billion

2. Agropur Cooperative    Longuieuil, Quebec    $3.49 billion

3. Prairie Farms Dairy    Carlinville, IL    $2.5 billion

4. Dairy Farmers of America Inc.    Kansas City, MO    $2.333 billion

5. Darigold Inc.    Seattle, WA    $2.1 billion

Source: Company reports, compiled by Dairy Foods

The Largest Publicly Held Dairy Companies in North America

Company    Headquarters    2010 Revenues

1. Dean Foods Co.    Dallas, TX    $12.123 billion

2. Saputo Inc.    Saint-Léonard, Québec    $5.506 billion

3. Kraft Foods Global Inc.    Northfield, IL     $4 billion

4. Kroger Co.    Cincinnati, OH    $2.3 billion*

5. ConAgra Foods Inc.    Omaha, NE    $771 million*

Source: Company reports, compiled by Dairy Foods. * denotes estimate.

The Largest Privately Held Dairy Companies in North America

Company    Headquarters    2010 Revenues

1. Schreiber Foods    Green Bay, WI    $3.6 billion

2. Leprino Foods Co.    Denver, CO    $3. billion*

3. HP Hood LLC    Lynnfield, MA    $2.4 billion

4. Great Lakes Cheese Co.    Hiram, OH    $1.9 billion

5. Hilmar Cheese Co.    Hilmar, CA    $1.3 billion

Source: Company reports, compiled by Dairy Foods. * denotes estimate.

Download a PDF of the rankings here.