The Big Cheese

by Lynn Petrak
Flavor, fads, friendly packaging mark movement in the cheese category over the past year.
Industry-funded commercials have cleverly touted "the power of cheese" in recent years, and although people may not crash their cars seeking their favorite slice or chunk, cheese continues its long reign as one of the world's most popular foodstuffs.
In fact, for a centuries-old product, cheese is available in more flavors, forms, sizes and shapes than ever before, and the category is a hotbed of new product development, packaging innovations and integrated marketing campaigns.
What explains the ongoing appeal of something as simple as raw milk that's been separated, converted, formed and aged? Industry leaders seem to concur that the strength of cheese products centers on the tried-and-true concepts of taste and versatility.
"There are not too many foods that can be used in appetizers, first courses, second courses and desserts," says Nancy Fletcher, vice president of communications for the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), South San Francisco, Calif. "Cheese is one thing that can be used in many types of sweet and savory dishes."
Mary Kay O'Connor, director of education for the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA), says her group's "What's in Store 2004" report underscores the fact that the popularity of cheese is related to today's consumer climate and varied eating occasions. "For many people, their lifestyle helps them interface with cheese more often," she says. "They have more money for the purchase of specialty products, they dine out more frequently trying new foods and they travel more, often tasting new cheese products in different cuisines."
Indeed, cheese products can be found across virtually every supermarket and foodservice segment these days, from whimsical snack-size shapes for kids to upscale, ingredient-studded wedges, chunks and logs for adults. Cheese packages sold at the retail level are more sophisticated, with professional graphics and a host convenience-oriented features.
It doesn't hurt the industry that the current weight-loss rage — high protein diets popularized by the South Beach and Atkins eating plans — keeps cheese high on the list of "accepted" foods. Although any consumption upticks linked to high-protein diets are difficult to quantify, the buzz is good for cheese, as it is for eggs, meats and other low-carbohydrate items.
"We think it's had an effect," says Kevin Burkam, senior vice president, retail channel development, for Rosemont, Ill.-based Dairy Management Inc. (DMI). "We don't have a specific idea of how much it has grown, but common-sensically, you have to say that interest is there."
Others agree that consumer preferences for cheese based on eating plans is anecdotal but real. "In general, there is a lot of consumer interest right now in low-carb diets and participation on behalf of about 6,000 to 25 million Americans — the figures depend on the study — who have tried or are currently practicing Atkins or another low-carb diets," says O'Connor.
The new year may have spurred a host of new food products labeled as "Atkins-friendly" or "low carb," but some cheesemakers are taking a wait-and-see approach to changing any packaging claims or building marketing campaigns around popular eating plans.
"We are not planning to add low-carb verbiage to labels at this point, although our packaging meets all nutritional and labeling guidelines so consumers are able to evaluate carbohydrate content," reports Chris Dinsdale, vice president of sales and marketing for Tillamook Country Creamery Association, Tillamook, Ore.
Similarly, Denmark, Wis.-based BelGioioso Cheese Inc. has fielded inquiries from consumers about its products' carbohydrate levels, but has not moved toward any imminent packaging updates. "We have seen some interest but have no immediate plans to market our cheeses with new verbiage," says marketing manager Jamie Wichlacz.
A more cautious approach to marketing high-protein profiles may be wise, say experts. Both Burkam and O'Connor are quick with a reminder that the lowfat craze of the 1980s and '90s demonstrated how the preference pendulum can swing, and that staying on message about traditional health benefits of cheese is perhaps more practical and effective.
"Time will tell whether this is a dietary fad or a major shifting eating trend," says O'Connor.
Top Natural Cheese Brands*
$ SalesIn Millions
% Change vs.Year Ago
Unit SalesIn Millions
% Changevs.Year Ago
Unit Share
Total Category
Private Label
Kraft Cracker Barrel
Land O'Lakes
Frigo Cheese Heads
*Total sales of all forms of natural cheese brands in supermarkets, drug stores and mass
merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) in the 52-week period ending December 28, 2003.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
All-Consuming Cheese
High-protein diets aside, consumers are still buying a lot of cheese. According to O'Connor, market research data shows cheese has one of the highest penetration rates for products in the dairy case, at 97.6 percent. "Only milk beats it at 98 percent," she says.
Other recent market research bears out the notion that cheese doesn't just remain a favorite food — its usage actually continues to grow. "Last year, the category was up 5 percent versus 2002. That is roughly 130 million additional pounds of cheese sold, and that is just the retail channel," says Burkam, citing recently compiled data from Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI).
Within the cheese category, much of the growth can be attributed to natural cheese, which jumped 8.3 percent from 2002 to 2003, for an additional 115.9 million pounds moved. Cream cheese was the next highest increase, with a 2.3 percent rise during the same time period. Processed cheese, meanwhile, did increase, but at a relatively stagnant rate of 0.6 percent.
When consumers buy cheese, they often choose store-brand varieties. Of the entire $3.1 billion category, private label sales account for 41.6 percent of the marketplace, with sales in excess of $1.1 billion, according to an IRI survey tracking sales from December 2002 to December 2003.
The leading cheese brands remain the industry's most prominent names. Kraft leads the natural cheese segment, with $293.8 million in sales, although the figures were off 4.3 percent from the previous year. Tillamook® is the second best-selling brand, enjoying a 5.8 percent boost from last year to reach sales of $184.4 million. Rounding out the top 10 brands are Kraft Cracker Barrel® at $103.9 million, Sargento at $97.6 million, Precious cheese at $69.1 million, Kraft's Athenos® brand at $65.6 million, Land O'Lakes at $62.9 million, Saputo's Frigo® Cheese Heads® at $53.8 million and Cacique at $44.0 million.
Making a Production
Competition is just as intense on the production side of the business as it is on the marketing side. Cheese is manufactured in virtually every state, as Burkam notes. "There are a lot of people involved in making our product. We're producing good cheeses all over the country. There are strong arti-
sanal cheesemakers in Georgia and Mississippi, for example," he says, adding the nation's main production regions still lead the pack. "Certainly, there is a lot of cheese production out West and that growth is continuing."
Indeed, while Wisconsin has been the nation's leading cheesemaking state for decades, America's Dairyland is followed ever so closely by California. According to USDA figures from 2002, Wisconsin still leads the nation in cheese production, supplying 26 percent of cheeses, followed by California at 20 percent. But California is catching up, and projections show the Golden State's strong surge in production in recent years will eclipse Wisconsin by 2005.
From California's perspective, the state's growth can be attributed to aggressive product development and marketing, spearheaded by individual cheesemakers as well as by CMAB. "Our cheese production has doubled since 1992, so we are the fastest-growing cheese producing area," says Fletcher. "In 1995, we started our Real Cheese campaign with 50 cheesemakers making 75 varieties. CMAB has worked with the industry to encourage wider varieties of cheese, and today we have 250 varieties of cheese."
Although California may be closing in, Wisconsin's cheesemakers are striving to grow their business by expanding distribution and diversifying into the specialty and artisan cheeses that have helped fuel growth on the West Coast. The Madison, Wis.-based Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) also invests heavily in promotional, marketing and educational campaigns. WMMB has its own seal of quality — "Wisconsin Cheese: Pride, Our Secret Ingredient" — and sponsors advertisements and extensive retail cheese promotions highlighting Wisconsin-made brands.
WMMB is well aware of the predictions. "Certainly that is an assertion we hear a lot, too. I think it's probably inevitable, eventually, though I don't know if it will happen as soon as some people are saying it will," says Dana Tanyeri, WMMB's director of national product communications, noting that although California's "enormous" production capability is enabling its growth, Wisconsin's output is not declining.
In addition to the new product seal — which Tanyeri says was created based on research affirming that "tradition, heritage, quality and Old World expertise are really common themes when it comes to Wisconsin cheese" — manufacturers are diversifying their product lines to appeal to today's marketplace. "The whole specialty end of things is very interesting, and is heating up a lot here in Wisconsin," she says. "The last statistics we have, from 2002, show that specialty cheese comprised 12.57 percent of our total production, which was up 20 percent over the previous year."
Much of the production growth in California, too, can be linked to new product development, especially on the specialty side of the business. "We're seeing a lot of growth in terms not only of quantity but quality. Artisan and natural cheese products are getting national recognition for quality, which is very similar to the wine movement in California in the 1960s," says Fletcher. "This is leading the trend nationally."
Variety Show
The trend toward greater varieties of cheeses, in terms of both non-traditional and original style of cheeses as well as highly flavored cheeses, continues to be the big story of the category.
Cheese marketers and industry leaders use similar terms in describing the impetus behind this shift. "I think consumers are become a lot more sophisticated in terms of their tastes and are exploring different varieties of cheeses. They want to learn more about the cheese, who made it, the quality, the taste and how to use it," says Fletcher.
O'Connor agrees. "American consumers are increasingly more interested in cheese with bolder, more adventurous flavors. We see this as a trend that's only going to become more pronounced," she says. "'What's in Store 2004' reports that, for the year ending May 18, 2003, the top three fastest-growing cheese varieties at retail were gorgonzola, havarti and asiago."
Burkam, too, cites Americans' newfound penchant for more exotic flavors. "You have more sophisticated palates out there. Consumers are demanding higher flavor profiles and our cheesemakers are delivering them," he says. "We have some wonderful products being added all the time."
A quick review of new product launches over the last year certainly does show a wide variety of flavor profiles hitting the market. The Monrovia, Calif.-based specialty grocer Trader Joe's, which sells an eclectic array of private label specialty cheeses, regularly rolls out interesting varieties, including two of its latest offerings, Montchevre Chevre Fresh Goat Cheese in Cranberry Cinnamon, a U.S.-made Amish farm cheese, and Double Crème Brie, made in Canada.
The Sonoma Cheese Co., Sonoma, Calif., also has focused on flavor, introducing several new varieties of flavored cheese. The company's Jack line includes Portabella wedges in an exact-weight 8-ounce package and Chili Cheddar cheese.
On the other side of the country, traditional Vermont cheddar has gotten bolder as well. Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Cabot, Vt., has introduced several flavored cheddars over the past several years. The most recent varieties include Taste of Tuscany Italian-style flavored cheddar and chipotle-flavored cheddar.
"The whole flavored natural cheddar category has been good for us for a number of years now," says Jed Davis, Cabot's director of marketing. He says flavors with broad appeal, like sun-dried tomato basil cheddar, were first to be rolled out. Now the line's most asked-about flavors are bolder cheddars in varieties like horseradish, habanero and chipotle.
The key to success in flavored varieties, says Davis, is to create them with a true culinary approach. "We don't want the cheese to be a carrier for flavor — it has to be a real marriage. There has to be a give and take, a complementary aspect to flavors," he says. "At the end of the day, we make an excellent cheddar and we don't want that to be lost."
Top Natural Shredded Cheese Brands*
$ SalesIn Millions
% Change vs.Year Ago
Unit SalesIn Millions
% Changevs.Year Ago
Unit Share
Total Category $1,945.4 4.8% 100.0 775.1 5.1% 100.0
Private Label 883.7 8.4 45.4 366.0 6.8 45.9
Kraft 496.3 2.9 25.5 198.9 4.7 25.7
Sargento 92.0 2.9 4.7 32.8 3.7 4.2
Sargento Fancy 68.9 -5.1 3.5 29.3 -6.3 3.8
Crystal Farms 66.6 6.1 3.4 26.6 9.3 3.4
Borden 57.5 13.4 3.0 29.4 20.2 3.8
Sargento ChefStyle 46.3 -15.2 2.4 17.4 -13.8 2.2
Kraft Classic Melts 35.2 -2.3 1.8 14.5 0.3 1.9
Kraft Free 27.9 7.4 1.4 10.2 9.4 1.3
Sargento Light 27.1 -8.6 1.4 10.6 -8.0 1.4
*Total sales of all forms of natural shredded cheese brands in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) in the 52-week period ending December 28, 2003.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
Top American Cheese Brands*
$ SalesIn Millions
% Change vs.Year Ago
Unit SalesIn Millions
% Changevs.Year Ago
Unit Share
Total Category
Kraft Singles
Private Label
Kraft Velveeta
Kraft Deli Deluxe
Land O'Lakes
Kraft Free
Kraft Deluxe
Kraft Velveeta Light
Crystal Farms
*Total sales of all forms of American cheese brands in supermarkets, drug stores and mass
merchandisers (excluding Wal-Mart) in the 52-week period ending December 28, 2003.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
The sales success of Cabot's habanero and chipotle natural cheddars underscores another flavor trend in the cheese category: Hispanic-style cheeses. "We believe we'll continue to see a pronounced growth in Hispanic cheese variety-types," says O'Connor, noting that U.S. Census Bureau statistics show Hispanics comprise the largest minority group with a population expected to grow another 50 percent by 2020. "This high immigration will encourage Hispanic cheese production and as this population assimilates we'll see some of these cheese varieties become accepted as mainstream products in the marketplace."
California, home to one the nation's largest Hispanic populations, has certainly been impacted by such ethnic influences. "We have the largest Hispanic cheesemaking industry in the United States," says Fletcher. "It's an important part of our business."
In addition to ingredient combinations and interest in ethnic-style cheeses, more gourmet cheeses are emerging as well, both in mainstream supermarkets and specialty stores. For instance, Cappiello Cheese, Schenectady, N.Y., has expanded distribution of its hand-braided specialty mozzarella and is developing a scamorze variety, a blend of mozzarella and provolone that is aged 90 days.
Washed-rind cheeses, not really on the consumer radar a few years ago, are also coming on strong lately. WMMB rated washed-rind cheeses— with rinds washed and rubbed with flavorful ingredients such as cocoa, cinnamon, smoked paprika, cumin and coriander — as an emerging variety worth watching in a recent trend report.
BelGioioso recently introduced a washed-rind cheese called Italico™. "The development occurred because our cheesemakers felt they could produce an outstanding artisan cheese and our sales team indicated there is a market for this product," says Wichlacz. BelGioioso's Italico is surface-ripened cheese with a minimum age of 2 months and is available in 10-pound blocks, 5-pound half blocks and random-weight retail cuts.
Organic cheeses, which have a bit of buzz around them, are slowly entering the marketplace as well, but mostly at specialty stores and in the organic sections of mainstream supermarkets. "We're seeing more, but it's still very small," reports Fletcher, adding that hotter areas of development, at least in California, include original, artisanal and farmstead cheeses.
Value Added, Convenience Driven
All the activity in the highly flavored cheese segment doesn't mean, of course, that the other recent trend of note in the category has abated. Convenience-oriented products and packaging, which were big drivers in this category for a good part of the 1990s, continue to play a role in new product development.
Tillamook, for instance, has made addressing customer demands for simple-to-use, lifestyle oriented products a priority. "In 2003 our new cheese products were mainly focused on convenience; offering products that fit our consumers' busy lifestyle," says Dinsdale. "Next to quality, taste and consistency, convenience is probably one of our consumers' key purchasing factors. Our sales growth of sliced cheese and shreds seem to confirm this."
Tillamook introduced four new shredded products last year, including a new 8-ounce fancy medium shredded cheddar cheese and three new 8-ounce shredded blends— Mexican, Queso and Italian. Late last year, the company also rolled out Tilla-Moos™, individually wrapped single-serving portions of cheese sold in 10-pack resealable bags called Pack-it-Pals™ for the snack category.
As the Tilla-Moos launch demonstrates, the latest area of innovation in convenience-inspired packaging has been the move to on-the-go portions. Beyond traditional mozzarella string cheese, there have been a host of new types of snacking cheeses. Sorrento Lactalis, Buffalo, N.Y., recently launched Shapesters®, natural mild cheddar cheese molded into sea- and space-theme shapes.
Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods Co. has also placed renewed emphasis on snacking cheeses, both for kids and adults. Last year, Kraft unveiled its Cracker Cuts, pre-cut slices of cracker-sized cheeses designed to fit perfectly atop a traditional cracker, a follow-up to its other relatively recent launch, Kraft RipUms, geared to youngsters.
Saputo Cheese USA Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., a longtime leader in string cheese, launched two new snacking cheese products: a Frigo Cheese Heads string cheese variety pack, a 24-count package with three varieties, and Frigo® Cheese Heads Mini-Bars, available in mild cheddar and colby jack. "Mini-Bars are 3/4-ounce portions of America's favorite cheeses and were developed to capture snackers looking for additional portable cheese snack options," explains Steve Josen, vice president of marketing.
Convenience and value extend beyond product forms to packaging features. Today, thanks to innovations in the 1990s, reclosable flexible packages for shredded and pre-sliced cheeses are almost standard, whether the design includes zippers, sliders or press-to-close tops. Some brands are still perfecting their easy-to-open features; Kraft, for example, retooled its natural shredded cheese packages last year to include user-friendly FreshSlide™ zippers and flagged the packages as "Easier to reseal."
Marketing Methods
Some packaging upgrades have been done to improve graphics. Cabot Creamery, for example, has changed the face of its flavored cheeses to grab customer attention at the refrigerated deli case. "Gradually we've tried to give them more eye appeal," says Davis. "But we still want there to be recognition that this is brought to you by the cheesemakers from Cabot — it has something of a pedigree that says it's worth a try."
Some of Tillamook's cheese packages have gotten a makeover, too. "We've moved to a new look that emphasizes our history, incorporating our original 'Tillamook on the rind' stamp of approval, as well as a new traditional and rich color palate and our cooperative description, 'Farmer-owned since 1909,'" says Dinsdale.
For Saputo Cheese, a label change on its Frigo ricotta packages last fall was done for broader strategic reasons. "This initiative was driven by the need to re-energize the ricotta category," explains Josen. "For several years the ricotta category had been in decline, as more consumers turned to pre-prepared versions of the foods they used to make with ricotta. We designed the new Frigo package to appeal to today's families, and the guaranteed offer to remind them that nothing beats the taste of homemade."
Package labels are just one marketing tactic, however. Branded cheese companies continue to invest in advertising and promotional programs, working through various media channels as well as at the retail and foodservice level. Industry-funded groups like CMAB and WMMB are also busy spreading the word about cheese, through activities like sweepstakes, merchandise offerings, recipe dissemination on their respective Web sites, supermarket promotions and public relations programs. Advertising and promotional messages vary, from an emphasis on quality and craftsmanship to health messages, such as DMI's ongoing "3-A-Day" nutrition-oriented marketing campaign.
Even as they work to market today's products and track current trends, cheesemakers and industry leaders are continually thinking about tomorrow's opportunities. O'Connor, for her part, makes one projection based on recent IDDBA marketplace research. "We predict over the next decade, that the next wave of flavored cheeses, like deli meats, will follow the trend toward more specificity or authenticity," she says." Instead of Asian or Chinese flavors we'll see Laotian, Hunan or Cantonese. Instead of Italian, it's Sicilian, and instead of Mexican it's Oaxacan."
Ingredient Spotlight
Cheese Flavor Development
How to help processors achieve the taste they're seeking.
Degussa has a long history of working closely with cheese manufacturers to optimize cheese flavor development. Starting 60 years ago with the identification of lipase enzymes and their mode of action, and continuing with the development of the Continuous Use™ Bulk Culture systems and the creation of the Accelerated Cheese Ripening (ACR) System, Degussa has been a consistent partner to the cheese industry. Con­tinuous improvement is at the core of Degussa's customer-intimacy philosophy.
While it is recognized that cheese flavor is incredibly complex, Degussa has gained experience in this arena from years of studying highly flavored cheese varieties around the world. This knowledge can be applied to acceleration of flavor development in cheddar and parmesan cheeses.
When a cheese manufacturer is interested in accelerating or fine-tuning its cheese flavor, a Degussa technical salesperson is immediately engaged to determine the primary objectives behind the request:
  • Is it to reduce ripening time?
  • Is the current cheese flavor not acceptable?
  • Is the current flavor development inconsistent?
  • Is the current flavor acceptable but development of a signature flavor is desired?
  • In addition, it is important to understand the cheesemaker's manufacturing flexibility and overall manufacturing capabilities.
The technical salesperson is a cheese expert with years of varied experience gathered from working at many cheese plants. This expert works confidentially with cheese manufacturers to zone in on the best strategy to meet the flavor requirement while minimizing trial and error.
Once the target has been clearly identified and reconciled, Degussa begins employing various proven resources to assess and measure the characteristics of the existing cheese in comparison to a target. If an actual target does not exist (other than in someone's mind), this is also important to understand. This analysis will provide direction on which ingredients to employ to close the gap between the existing cheese and the target.
Degussa is continuing to evaluate new and different components for the ACR system. "Our company's history affords us access to a number of wonderful flavor-creation tools," says Jim Foy, Ph.D., research director.
Over the years, Degussa has acquired several companies with strong expertise in cheese flavor. These include Laboratories Roger, a French culture company that has been producing covering and ripening cultures for French-style cheeses for more than 100 years; and Dairyland Food Laboratories, a U.S.-based company whose founder discovered the origin of lipase flavor. From Dairyland also comes strong basic technology in acidifying cheese culture systems. The resulting synergy plus continuing Degussa product development, have provided a number of tools for the ACR system.
With various components within the ACR system available, Degussa has assisted different cheddar cheese manufacturers to meet their unique objectives. Some are using only ripening microorganisms isolated from
traditional surface ripened cheeses. Others are using combinations of ripening strains, enzymes and adjunct cultures.
"Recently there has also been more interest in acceleration of traditional parmesan cheese flavor development," says Sandy Speich, research coordinator of the ACR system. "Typically, the customer requests a full-flavored parmesan in just four or five months. Degussa systems that have been developed to date are meeting these needs."
These include a variety of acidifying, ripening and adjunct cultures, as well as enzymes that can be used to create the typical parmesan flavor. Of particular interest is the ability to develop the fruity and pineapple flavors that are found in traditional fully aged parmesan cheese.
Degussa has also developed additional tools to expand and enhance the ability to achieve targeted flavors. New strains of Lactobacillus species adjunct cultures allow for development of a wider range of cheese flavors. Many of the newer strains have very low acidification rates, but each individual cell carries a strong enzyme package for superior targeted flavor development.
The next addition to the ACR system is the introduction of the EZ Age Blends. These comprise ACR components combined in various ratios to meet each individual customer needs.
At Degussa, understanding and meeting each customer's unique requirements is the ultimate goal. The tools available through the ACR system provide the potential to achieve each customer's individual flavor target.
Plant Progress
Big makers of cheese keep things moving and shaking.
The nation's cheese industry needs a strong infrastructure to keep up with continuous demand for product. While veterans on the scene keep up their steady pace, production capacity continues to grow.

Jerome Cheese Co.
Davisco Foods International's plant in Jerome, Idaho, continues with its enormous daily output of various cheese and whey products. Taking in some 4 million pounds of raw milk every day, the Jerome Cheese Co. makes nearly 400,000 pounds of cheese daily and no fewer than five truckloads per day of whey powder that's sent across the United States and abroad, along with cream shipped to butter and ice cream plants nationwide.
Every hour, 190,000 pounds of raw milk is pasteurized on its way to nine 55,000-pound cheese vats. The state-of-the-art plant is controlled by 28 PLCs.
In addition to cheese, the plant manufactures premium deproteinized whey, BiPRO® whey protein isolate, BioPURE-Alphalactalbumin™, beta-lactoglobulin, fractionated whey products, sweet cream, whey cream, condensed whey and water. A 1997 expansion added more than 67,000 square feet for production of isolate and BiPRO, as well as a tripling of warehousing capacity.
Over a typical month, Jerome processes more than 120 million pounds of milk and produces about 10 million pounds of cheese, 6 million pounds of whey powder, 480,000 pounds of whey cream and 1.2 million pounds of sweet cream. About 95 million pounds of water extracted from milk and whey is used for temperature control, cleaning and irrigation.

Tillamook Cheese
The Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) has been making cheese since 1909 and still clings to the age-old concept of quality over quantity. But that doesn't mean the Oregon-based processor lacks quantity.
Between its flagship plant in Tillamook and its satellite facility in Boardman that opened in 2001, TCCA processed a billion pounds of milk in 2003. That translates into 100 million pounds of cheese, including the company's best seller, Tillamook Medium Cheddar.
Tillamook's sub-pasteurization system processes 100,000 pounds of milk per hour, sending it on to eight 53,000-pound vats and eventually the Cheddarmaster, which handles 10,000 pounds per hour.
Finished cheese starts as 40-pound blocks that are aged and later cut into various sizes for sale. Cheese is warehoused and shipped via TCCA's high-tech automated storage and retrieval system, installed at the Tillamook plant in 2000.
Southwest Cheese Co.
Ground was broken last month on a new $190 million cheese and whey plant in Clovis, N.M. The facility is being built by Twin Falls, Idaho-based Glanbia Foods Inc. in a joint venture with Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Select Milk Producers and other cooperative members of the Greater Southwest Agency Inc.
The new factory is expected to be one of the largest and most efficient plants in the world. Once complete, it will process more than 2.4 billion pounds of milk into 250 million pounds of cheese and 16.5 million pounds of value-added whey proteins every year.
The venture is 50 percent owned by Glanbia, with the remaining primarily owned by DFA and Select.
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