10 Years, 100 Companies
by James Dudlicek
Dairy Field Celebrates a Decade of Change in the Industry.
Dairy Field published its first Top 100 ranking of dairy processors in 1995 and since then has kept a watchful eye on the successes, failures, acquisitions and consolidations that have made the list a virtual living, breathing entity.
Just a decade ago, Dean Foods Co. was ranked fifth, still based in the Chicago area where it began, with 24 plants and $1.44 billion in sales. Suiza was just getting its feet wet in the dairy business. My, how things change.
In 1995, Kraft held the top spot, with an estimated $3.3 billion in annual dairy product sales. Reporting about double that now, the cheese giant has held the No. 2 spot since the Dean-Suiza marriage.
Ten years ago, only four companies ranked with less than $100 million in sales. The bottom end dips much lower today, while the top end rises higher. Acquisitions and consolidations have fattened the high-end players, broadened the middle and allowed smaller companies that have managed to preserve their independence to find a place among the Top 100.
Among the names that have disappeared from their own rankings, to be found under the banner of others or elsewhere: Mid-America Dairymen (now DFA), Borden (DFA), BolsWessanen (former owner of Crowley and Kemps), Häagen-Dazs (Nestlé), Stella (Saputo), Morningstar Group (Dean), Southern Foods Group (Dean), Barber Dairies (Dean), Garelick Farms (Dean), Ralphs Grocery (Kroger), Berkeley Farms (Dean), Michael Foods (Dean).
But enough about the past — what does the list of today look like, and how does it compare to last year?
Well, there are no surprises in the top three; Dean, Kraft and Land O’Lakes continue to hold those spots quite firmly. But Schreiber leapt to fourth place from sixth, as the cheesemaking powerhouse continues to grow through strategic acquisitions and product development in the private label arena. Grocery giant Kroger dropped from fourth to fifth, while Dairy Farmers of America rose up to sixth from its 10th-place slot last year.
More than a year after its acquisition of Kemps and Crowley, HP Hood is enjoying its new home in the top 10 at seventh place. Mozzarella monster Leprino Foods continues to hold the No. 8 position.
Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream dropped from seventh to ninth, while still enjoying a year of plant expansions and product successes. Rounding out the upper tenth of the list is Dreyer’s rival Good Humor-Breyers, which breaks into the top 10 after sniffing at it from the No. 11 spot on last year’s ranking.
Other changes: Farmland Dairies has emerged from the ashes of Parmalat USA to administer its extensive UHT fluid operations. Mainstay Santee Dairies now goes by the name Heartland Farms. We’ve opted to list Ahold USA’s dairy manufacturing operations as Giant Food this year, though with its plants on the block, this listing will likely soon disappear altogether.
New to the ranking this year: Cold-pack king Bel/Kaukauna, back on the list after an unexplained absence, at 64th; Wisconsin cheesemaker Grande at 65th; Schneider’s Dairy of Pennsylvania at 90th; California cheese manufacturer Joseph Gallo Farms at 91st; upstate New York favorite Perry’s Ice Cream at 94th; Sartori Foods, another Wisconsinite, at 95th; and Bluegrass Dairy of Kentucky — one of the first to call us after last year’s ranking was published — on the tail end at 100th.
But with the new comes a loss of some of the old: Dippin’ Dots, a first-timer in 2004, just missed a second ranking at 101st place; along with Old Home Foods (the Minnesota cultured processor whose cottage cheese I love), Vermont frozen novelty maker Rhino Foods and Ohio’s Velvet Ice Cream.
Thanks to all the companies who helped us out by providing information for the ranking. Even if you didn’t make it this time, we’d still like to hear from you again. The industry is dynamic, and the rankings are bound to keep changing (especially if someone above you gets gobbled up by someone above them).  
Most of the information within this report was provided through the gracious cooperation of the processors. Information for companies that chose not to reveal sales figures or otherwise participate was found at Hoover’s Online or estimated based on annual reports and other industry information. Rankings are based on reported sales of finished dairy products.
If your company was omitted and you’d like to be considered for next year’s ranking, please contact us at (847) 205-5660 ext. 4009 or jdudlicek@stagnito.com.  
$OMN_arttitle="10 Years 100 Companies";?>