Looking Back: Leaders of ’95

For the 10
th anniversary of our Top 100 processors ranking, we look at what some of dairy’s heavy hitters were saying about the industry at the time of our first ranking in June 1995.
Q: How are things going for the dairy industry this year?
Marty Margherio, president/CEO, Crowley Foods Inc.: Our business is relatively flat. … The continued pressures on a lot of our customers in the east are causing some problems. We also are seeing a large influx of new customers. A lot of club stores … the Super Wal-Mart type stores. … I guess time will tell how valuable and profitable they’ll be in the long run.
Harold Schild, general manager, Tillamook County Creamery Association: Our business has been really good. … Our biggest problem at the moment is getting the milk supply …
Dave Johnson, VP of marketing, strategy and development, Kraft Cheese Division: Last year was a very good year for the cheese industry in total. … Natural cheese and cream cheese were very high growth categories.
Q: Are your relation­ships with your customers changing?
Jim Lauderdale, VP marketing and sales for dairy, Mid-America Dairymen Inc.: You’re seeing customer consolidation … a lot of customers that have several divisions, and they’re now trying to leverage their total buying power.
Schild: As you deal with more consolidated retailers that are national, the decisions are made on a national basis. And when those national chains market in our area, they don’t recognize the strength and value in our brand.
Margherio: The stronger are going to continue to get bigger … Hopefully we’ll be able to grow as these major players grow.
Q: How are lowfat and nonfat products performing for you?
Johnson: Fat-free products have made significant inroads into the reduced-fat/light products, because of their generally strong quality. But on the natural cheese side, where it’s been more difficult to get a high-quality fat-free product, reduced fat and light are still viable.
Margherio: The regular yogurt product is almost nonexistent for us. It’s lowfats and nonfats, with the nonfat using some kind of a (non-sugar) sweetener.
Bill Ezell, president, Purity Dairies Inc.: When we developed our no-fat products in [cottage cheese and sour cream], I said, “These are just as good as the lowfat, and we need to cut out the lowfat.” It hasn’t happened.