If you operate a family business, you might be the second or third generation at the helm. Grandchildren in the executive suite (along with grand nephews and nieces) abound in dairy processing.
If you operate a family business, you might be the second or third generation at the helm. Grandchildren in the executive suite (along with grand nephews and nieces) abound in dairy processing. They continue the tradition of making wholesome dairy foods and treats in their local and regional marketing areas. When I visit family businesses, the principals tell me about working summers at the plant and observing how their parents or grandparents made cheese or ice cream. Those running the large, publicly held dairy processing companies might lack those experiences. With the letters MBA after their names, they view everything in the world through the lens of finance.
Don’t misunderstand me. I see nothing wrong about managing by the numbers. It’s good business sense to know your costs and margins, and for small businesses especially, efficient production is a survival skill. My point is that to fully understand the nuances of manufacturing, it helps to have spent “time on the trail,” which only comes from working summers and holidays and mastering the entry-level jobs in operations, marketing, logistics or sales. Family members have those experiences, which inform their business decisions.
Beginning on page 64, we present our annual ranking of the largest dairy processors doing business in the United States. This is the 18th year of our Dairy 100. The list includes large, privately held family-run businesses, as well as publicly traded corporations.
Elsewhere in this issue, we profile a small business ($30 million annual sales) run by family members. Three cousins, descendants of the founder, are the fourth generation to operate Graeter’s Manufacturing Co., Cincinnati. (See “The Greater Good” on page 95). They spent many hours figuring out the direction they wanted to take the business. Ultimately, Rich Graeter and brothers Bob and Chip Graeter decided to grow Graeter’s by making more ice cream and selling it in grocery stores (not just in their own scoop shops). When the Graeters decided to reach beyond the Cincinnati area, they realized they needed a new plant. This facility, which opened in 2010, is the Dairy Foods 2011 Plant of the Year (see the article on page 36). The Graeters will accept the award at the International Dairy Show in Atlanta on Sept. 21 and share the story of how they built the plant at an educational program.
While their production technique is firmly grounded in the 19th century (the way the founder made ice cream), the business acumen of Rich, Bob and Chip Graeter is clearly 21st century. Happy reading. n
Jim Carper is chief editor of Dairy Foods. Phone: 847-405-4009. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dairy's Grand Tradition
August 15, 2011