Process Progress
by James Dudlicek
Dairy Field has watched manufacturing make great strides in technology over the past century.
Just a few years after the sundae was invented, Thomas D. Cutler launched The Ice Cream Trade Journal in 1905. The U.S. frozen dessert industry was in its infancy, with ice cream having been for many years a handmade treat for the elite. Annual production was about 5 million gallons. There were no national trade associations, and only one college offered instruction on ice cream manufacturing.
The fluid milk and cheese industries were more firmly established, but in the days before mandatory pasteurization and other regulations, they clearly had a long way to go. We take pride in knowing that Dairy Field and its predecessors have been with the dairy industry for much of that journey.
The Ice Cream Trade Journal merged with Ice Cream Field in 1965, two years later becoming Dairy and Ice Cream Field. It has been known as Dairy Field since 1979, except for a brief run as Dairy Field Today shortly before its acquisition by Stagnito Communications in June 1991.
Over the past century, this publication has been with the industry through its watershed events, from the adoption of standards, the energy crisis of the ’70s, debates over artificial growth hormones and the groundbreaking research linking dairy calcium to weight management.
And from that 5 million gallons of ice cream in 1905, total hard-frozen dessert production was up to 1.17 billion gallons in 2003, according to the International Dairy Foods Association’s 2004 edition of Dairy Facts. Total milk production surpassed 170 billion pounds by 2003. U.S. natural cheese production approached 8.6 billion pounds that year, up from about 1.5 billion just three decades earlier. Among other dairy foods, yogurt production approached 2.4 billion pounds, butter topped 1.2 billion and nonfat dry milk neared 1.6 billion.
To launch our year-long 100th anniversary celebration, we’ve reached out to some of the processors that have been around about as long as we have making these products, for their input on how manufacturing has changed for them over these many decades. Compared to our recent visits to their modern-day operations, the differences are dramatic.
Anderson Erickson Dairy Co.Des Moines, Iowa
F­ounded in 1930, fluid and cultured processor Anderson Erickson Dairy (AE) began operations in a building about the size of a two-car garage with a four-valve glass filler. In the 1940s, production moved to the plant’s current location, with packaging switching from glass to paper about 10 years later.
“Consumer trends really drove the change, along with reduced time and equipment for sanitation of the glass bottles, lighter-weight packaging and higher-speed fillers,” says special projects director Frank McDowell. Well-versed in AE’s evolution, McDowell has served the company over the past four decades in various roles, including director of quality control, plant manager and vice president of production.
In the 1970s, plastic gained popularity and AE again made a switch in machinery and packaging; this change brought a blow-molding operation to the plant. Today, AE uses several high-speed fillers for both paper and plastic packaging.
The operation has grown to 15,000 square feet, including plant and cooler, on a corporate complex encompassing 21 acres.   
Production volume and pasteurization methods account for the greatest changes since AE began operations, says McDowell. “Today, AE uses high-temperature short-time for pasteurization, as compared to vat pasteurization that was used at AE’s inception. This change has resulted in a large efficiency of time,” he says. “Vat pasteurization took approximately 3 hours for 1,000 gallons, while HTST takes 10 minutes or less.”
Volume of milk handled has increased over time, from 30,000 gallons of tank capacity in the 1960s to nearly 300,000 gallons today.
Sanitation has been made easier with the passage of time and technology, with CIP (cleaning in place) arriving in the ’60s. “This was a great advancement in technology for the dairy industry, as all of the cleaning became automated and computerized,” McDowell says.   “In other words, you no longer had to think about cleaning the equipment — it just happened.”  
Increased technology has resulted in faster fillers and a much faster, less labor-intensive sanitation process. Cranes, coolers, automation, and computerized robots have all been a part of the evolution.  
“An interesting example when thinking about the sanitation process over the years is one employee had to watch each glass bottle as it was being cleaned to make sure that everything was going as it should,” McDowell says. “Now, obviously, we don’t have to worry about that.”  
Another example of the magnitude of advanced technology is with AE’s fillers. “In the olden days,” McDowell says, “only 30 gallons were filled in a minute. Now more than 300 can be filled in one minute.  That’s 432,000 gallons a day.”  
Naturally, the evolution of production processes has positively impacted AE’s ability to serve its customers and increase its marketing area. “An automated production process has greatly impacted our storage capability. One example would be the automated ‘first in/first out’ rotation process,” says Norm Dostal, director of operations.  “Advancements in refrigeration has aided in the ease and capability of storing and delivering products to an ever-growing marketing area. And finally, the extension of our shelf life or code date on products has dramatically changed. In the ’60s, code was seven days, then we jumped up to 10 days and now we are at 18 days for the life of the product.”
AE is unique among cultured processors in that the company hand-packed its cottage cheese into the 21st century while most dairies abandoned this practice in the 1970s. When a steady supply of old-style cartons ran out, AE finally mechanized the process, using the latest technology to ensure consistency in a product that has a devoted following among consumers.
As AE celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, the company recognizes that while technology may change, things like a commitment to quality and service need not diminish with time.
“We have covered a lot of ground in AE’s 75 years of existence, but some things weren’t changed,” chairman and chief executive officer Jim Erickson, son of AE’s founder, recently wrote in an employee newsletter. “My father always insisted on the highest quality standards and treating others as you would hope to be treated yourself.”
Blue Bell Creameries LPBrenham, Texas
Blue Bell Creameries started in 1907 as the Brenham Creamery Co., making butter with excess cream from area farmers. The first ice cream was produced in 1911, in wooden tubs filled with ice, at the rate of two gallons per day. In the early 1900s, the entire facility was less than 8,000 square feet.
Today, Blue Bell Creameries has four production facilities occupying close to 1 million square feet — two at the company’s Brenham, Texas, home base, a third in Broken Arrow, Okla., and the fourth in Sylacauga, Ala.
Blue Bell operates some 35 production lines, making products ranging from 1.5-ounce bars to 3-gallon containers of ice cream, according to production coordinator Dave Hellman. With the current hourly capacity to produce 23,000 gallons of packaged goods, 6,000 dozen snack items such as cups and ice cream sandwich products and 10,000 dozen stick novelties, Blue Bell truly has come a long way.
“The changes have been drastic,” says Gene Supak, vice president of operations. “In the early days, most everything was done by hand. Today, the use of modern continuous ice cream freezers, automated filling machines and lines capable of producing varieties of shapes and sizes of stick novelties allow us almost unlimited possibilities in terms of the types and quantity of products we cam produce.”
Additionally, the newest computer technology assists in planning, scheduling and accountability in day-to-day operations.
“New technology is evident in all aspects of most plant operations,” Supak says. “Today’s technology has helped in reducing the volume of paperwork and improving the capabilities of record-keeping and documentation. Technology has helped automate the process control functions and allows us to acquire and store the necessary data related to processing, product inventory control and product traceability.”
Going back to 1911 — the “ice age,” when an ice box was really dependent on ice — most homeowners did not have a means of keeping frozen goods in the home. “The development of the home freezer and commercial refrigeration had a tremendous positive impact on the market for ice cream products,” Supak says.
In 1939, Blue Bell began packing ice cream by hand in pint containers. Most was sold for immediate consumption because of limited or nonexistent home freezer space. It was not until the early 1950s, when home freezers became readily available, that ice cream marketing took on a new direction. The marketing focus then shifted to developing products and packages destined for in-home consumption.
In 1952, Blue Bell began packing Supreme ice cream in pints and half gallons using automated filling equipment.
“The development of the continuous ice cream freezer and the automation of mix processing have allowed ice cream companies to efficiently process and produce ice cream products at high capacities,” Supak says. “The use of various quick-hardening systems has allowed us to increase production output, therefore greatly improving and maintaining product quality.”
Plus, the continued development of higher-capacity ice cream freezers and packaging equipment, along with improved refrigerated transports and distribution trucks, have helped Blue Bell expand its markets.
“In 1911, the two gallons of ice cream we produced per day were available only in Brenham, Texas,” Supak says. “Today, Blue Bell products are available in numerous states in the South and Southeast.”
Improvements in technology have played a key role in helping Blue Bell grow and expand its market over the years. “However, if you ask anyone associated with Blue Bell what has been the key to the success of the company,” Supak says, “the first reason will always be: It is the hard work and dedication of all the employees that are a part of the Blue Bell operation. Employees that care and do their job well continue to make Blue Bell Creameries a success today.”
Mayfield Dairy FarmsAthens, Tenn.
Thomas B. Mayfield Sr. was born on a farm in McMinn County, Tenn., in 1853. He bred and sold Jersey cows, among other animals, and in the spring and summer, the surplus milk was peddled around Athens, Tenn., along with some buttermilk and churned butter.
In 1912, Mayfield’s son, Thomas Brient Mayfield Jr. — known as Brient — bought a farm adjoining his father’s and began a dairy operation, milking about 45 Jersey cows. His wife made the first cottage cheese that was sold in Athens on a milk route.
Then in 1922, pasteurized milk was available for the first time in McMinn County with the completion of Mayfield’s new milk plant. A year later, Brient purchased an existing ice cream plant in Athens and started operating the Mayfield Creamery.
When Brient died in 1937, his son — 18-year-old Thomas Brient Mayfield III — took over the business. After World War II, he and his brother, C. Scott Mayfield, embarked on a project to expand the business. With borrowed capital, the Mayfields constructed what was at the time the most modern dairy plant in the Southeast, opening in 1950.
With its headquarters and flagship plant at the same site today, Mayfield Dairy Farms has stayed in the forefront of the dairy industry with innovation and quality products, including its popular fluid milk and ice cream.
Perhaps most important to Mayfield’s early positioning as a market leader was the installation of a vacreator in 1955. By using this machine, which utilizes a vacuum process to remove volatile odors and flavors from milk, Mayfield became the first dairy in the United States to produce milk with a year-round uniform flavor.
“Dairy farmers do a better job with the flavor of their milk, but it still gives our milk a consistent flavor,” says president Scottie Mayfield, noting that his company is something of a lone wolf in sticking with this technology.
The process in brief: Mayfield’s HTST pasteurizers are equipped with an upstream vacuum chamber that injects dry steam into the milk, raising its temperature from 160 to 175 degrees F. The milk next enters a flashing chamber to reduce the temperature back to 160 and remove moisture equivalent to the steam condensate added upstream. Conventional pasteurization is then resumed on the vacuum-treated raw milk.
A more visible Mayfield trademark came about with an innovation in the development of plastic bottles. In 1983, Mayfield became the first dairy to package milk in a yellow plastic bottle, which reflects harmful light rays and protects the milk flavor and nutrients. The company had already been making its own plastic bottles since 1970, when it began the first successful in-plant blow-molding operation.
Continuing in the packaging arena, Mayfield — acquired by Dean Foods in 1990 — launched a revolution in fluid milk in 1995 with the now-ubiquitous single-serve Chug bottle. Three years later, Mayfield started packing its ice cream in scround containers.
Mayfield has seen other innovations improve its operations throughout its history: mechanically refrigerated milk trucks in the 1950s, tamper-resistant ice cream cartons and fast-freezing hardeners in the 1960s.
In fact, folks who have been with Mayfield for the long haul will tell you they can’t remember a time when there wasn’t a project being planned or implemented to improve some facet of production. From automated processing, storage and retrieval to high-tech design and process controls at its fluid plant in Braselton, Ga., opened in 1997, Mayfield has seen processing come a long way.
“As in any growing business,” says Scott Watson, Athens plant manager, “we reinvest in our plants constantly,”
Tillamook County Creamery AssociationTillamook, Ore.
While the Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) celebrated its 95th anniversary in 2004, its roots go back even further.
The dairy industry in Tillamook County, Ore., dates back to its first settlers in the early 1850s. Butter was produced as a way to handle excess milk that was available. Then, cheese became the product of choice after many hit-and-miss attempts to ship the butter to the Portland and Astoria markets.
Two successful dairy industry businessmen opened a creamery in 1894 in Tillamook and hired Peter McIntosh, a cheesemaker from Ontario who is credited with bringing the cheddar recipe that TCCA still uses today.
Before TCCA was formed, each of the creameries operated under the supervision of its own management, and each had its own cheesemaker who created a unique version of cheddar cheese, from two-pound rectangular loaves to 24-pound rounds of cheese called “daisies.”
Carl Haberlach, a bookkeeper and salesman for some of the creameries, envisioned a cooperative that would improve quality, produce a uniform product and secure the best possible prices. Ten cheese factories in Oregon’s Coast Range founded TCCA in 1909, and since then the producer-owned cooperative has busied itself making nationally distributed cheese products, including its best-selling cheddars, along with fluid, cultured and frozen products sold in regional markets.
TCCA’s dedication to high-quality products is a concept first established by the dairy farmers in the early 1900s, when they began petitioning the state of Oregon for a milk inspector. The values of quality and consistency have survived more than a century of dairying in Tillamook County, and quality remains a fundamental part of TCCA’s core values.
Four of the largest creameries within the association merged their operations in the late 1940s and, in a partnership with TCCA, built a large central facility near downtown Tillamook. Completed in 1949, the 175,000-square-foot plant had a cheese-aging warehouse with a capacity of 3 million pounds. The cheesemaking room had only the long, oval, open stainless-steel vats installed, each with its own overhead electrical agitator.
The association’s smaller creameries continued to operate after the new plant opened, but over the years those operations were consolidated into the central plant. The remaining seven small creameries folded their operations into the new plant in 1968, quality and efficiency being the main reasons for the final consolidation. While cheddar was made at all the plants, styles varied, and association leaders believed having all cheese production under one roof would make the process more efficient.
TCCA installed its first power curd mill around 1910. Other refinements followed, but the time-honored process of making cheese remained steeped in tradition. The cheesemaking room at the Tillamook plant stayed the same for more than 40 years. Then in 1990, a new cheesemaking room was added to house an automated cheddaring system. This system features the New Zealand-built Cheddarmaster, along with enclosed stainless-steel vats, seven cheese-pressing towers and a rapid-cool system.
During this expansion, a viewing mezzanine was constructed to allow tourists to watch cheesemaking. The packaging department was relocated to the former cheesemaking room in 1993, allowing the tourists to watch the packaging process, too.
In 1999, construction began on the 36-million-pound automated storage and retrieval system and cheese-maturing facility. Work also began on a second cheese manufacturing plant in Boardman, Ore., which is now in the beginning stages of an expansion that will eventually allow output to increase by 50 percent.
Today, the Tillamook plant receives 1.8 million pounds (175,000 gallons) of milk per day and makes 167,000 pounds of cheese daily, with capacity to store 50 million pounds.
Beyond the manufacturing process, packaging has also come a long way at TCCA. But in a way, it has come full circle.
Cheese made in Tillamook County was originally dipped in paraffin and packed in wooden boxes. If the cheese matched the quality standards set by TCCA, the box was stamped, “Inspected by Tillamook County Creamery Association.”
TCCA implemented an advertising campaign in 1918, based on a recommendation that its cheese should be sold under a brand so customers knew they were getting genuine Tillamook cheese. The solution was to stamp the cheese with vegetable dye repeatedly around the circum­ference of the cheese wheels with the word “Tillamook.”
With the rind stamped with Tillamook, “Look for Tillamook on the rind” became the catch phrase and was soon the advertising campaign slogan. This practice continued through the late 1980s.  
In 1949, technology was available to produce and package rindless cheese. The repeated brand was removed and replaced with the single mention of Tillamook on the package.
But through efforts by TCCA’s marketing department, cheese packaging once again resembles the old-style brand, with Tillamook repeated across the package, remi­nis­cent of “Tillamook on the rind.”
From the Past, the Future
These time-tested processors share common experiences with their industry peers: constantly improving technology, greater awareness of safety and sanitation, industry consolidation.
All of these factors have helped the dairy industry do its job better and more efficiently, become more competitive and better serve consumers with fresher, safer, tastier and more innovative products.
The companies that Dairy Field has “grown up with” and continues to see flourish today are examples of what this publication will strive for as it ventures into its second century — maximizing opportunities for growth, and showcasing the best examples of the people, products and companies that make such continued growth possible.  
The century club
Dairy Field joins the ranks of industry veterans.
Though Dairy Field is now 100 years old, it’s still a youngster when compared to some of the seasoned players still doing business today. Of course, the number of processors that can boast long histories has been shrinking rapidly as industry consolidation has become the rule of the day. To take just one segment as an example, the number of fluid milk plants in the United States has dropped from nearly 6,000 to about 600 over the past half century, according to the 2004 edition of Dairy Facts.
Many companies have come and gone, but the ones listed here have proven that, amid changing market conditions and often changing ownership, their brands, products and entrepreneurial prowess can stand the test of time.
While the following list may not necessarily be complete, DF is proud to stand among these names as standard-bearers of the dairy industry.

Brown’s Dairy (1905)
H.E. Butt Grocery Co. (1905)
Crowley Foods (1904)
Grassland Dairy Products (1904)
Lucerne (1904)
Kraft (1903)
Wawa Dairy (1902)
Crystal Cream & Butter Co. (1901)
Munroe Dairy (1881)
Breyers Ice Cream (1866)
Nestlé (1866)
HP Hood (1846)

If your company is 100 or more years old and we’ve missed you, please call or e-mail and let us know, and we’ll recognize you in a future issue, (847) 205-5660 ext. 4009, jdudlicek@stagnito.com.

Harry Stagnito,
President Stagnito Communications

Boston — A bill was recently introduced into the Massachusetts House that would authorize the sale of diabetic ice cream in the state.
In the last half of January, the Breyer Ice Cream Co. announced a reduction in its wholesale prices on packages in the New York City market. Prices for dealers are $1.80 net on pints and $1.68 on half gallons.
These two items caught my eye as I was scanning the February 1955 issue of The Ice Cream Trade Journal in preparation of conveying a few thoughts about Dairy Field’s 100th anniversary issue. My first thought was, “How progressive the industry was to detect the need for a healthy product 50 years ago.” My second thought was, “That wasn’t a bad price for a pint of ice cream.”
After spending more than 30 years in the dairy business, I’ve drawn  some observations about where the industry is headed as Dairy Field enters its second century.
The dairy market is the only segment of the food industry where the price of its raw ingredient is regulated by the government. Despite that, the dairy business has displayed a fierce tenacity to forge continuous growth. Working with thin margins in a highly technical market and against tough competitors, those who capitalized on R&D, production and distribution efficiencies have maintained profitable businesses.
I’ve listened to critics shout about the decline of the dairy industry because it couldn’t keep up with the fast pace and sophistication of the beverage market. Don’t believe it. Look at all the important new products that have been introduced over the years and how they have fit demographic and health needs.
Finally, you won’t find a harder working, more interested or sharing group of people than in the dairy industry. I put a high premium on the value of the relationships I’ve experienced.
It’s been a pleasure serving the dairy industry from the view of Dairy Field, and I look forward to all the opportunities, obstacles, challenges and successes that the future holds.