News Wire

Edward Mullins has been appointed to succeed the late Roger Capps as executive vice president and chief executive officer of Carlinville, Ill.-based Prairie Farms Dairy Inc. Only the fourth CEO in Prairie Farms’ 68-year history, Mullins joined the cooperative in 1980, working in retail dairy sales. Since September 2003, he had served as senior vice president, reporting to Capps, who was CEO from October 2000 until his July 15 passing.
Lifeway Foods Inc., Morton Grove, Ill., has acquired Sauk Centre, Minn.-based Helios Nutrition Ltd., the company’s top competitor in the market for kefir, the cultured dairy beverage. Company officials say the acquisition strengthens Lifeway’s presence in the rapidly growing market for organic dairy products, provides a steady supply of organic milk through Helios’ organic dairy subsidiary, and is expected to provide cost efficiencies by pooling the purchase of raw materials. For the short term, Helios-brand kefir will continue to be manufactured under Lifeway’s direction from Helios’ existing 25,000-square-foot plant in Sauk Centre; all Helios employees will be retained, with managers employed as consultants. Lifeway expects to transition the Helios line into its main Illinois facility by the end of the year.
Blue Ribbon Cheese Co., owned by American Dairy Parks LLC, plans to construct a $225 million cheese manufacturing facility in California’s San Joaquin Valley within an hour of downtown Fresno. With production expected to begin by 2009, the plant will produce Italian- and American-style cheeses, including mozzarella and cheddar. The factory is expected to make up to 680,000 pounds of cheese per day.
ConAgra Foods Inc., Omaha, Neb., has sold its cheese business to Fairmount Food Group for an undisclosed price, completing its plans to sell businesses that don’t fit the company’s focus on higher-profit branded foods. ConAgra’s cheese business, Swissrose International Inc., markets several brands of specialty and foodservice cheese.
Bravo Foods International Corp., North Palm Beach, Fla., has announced its Jasper production facility has reached monthly production of 7.5 million bottles, or 90-million-bottle annual capacity, for the company’s flavored milk products. This increased production level will satisfy the agreed upon supply obligation of Bravo to Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. (CCE), under its master distribution agreement with CCE.
Grafton Village Cheese Co., Grafton, Vt., has announced plans to build a new cheese production plant in southern Vermont as part of company expansion that will place the new plant and retail space at the Retreat Farm in Brattleboro. Both companies are part of the Windham Foundation, a not-for-profit company that focuses on building and funding programs that support Vermonters and the Vermont way of life. The expansion, in addition to the cheese company’s current operation in Grafton, aims to double its current annual production to 3 million pounds of cheese.
Ronkonkoma, N.Y.-based CoolBrands International Inc. has received a warning from lender JPMorgan Chase Bank that it “reserves the right” to terminate two credit agreements after CoolBrands failed to meet earnings benchmarks. The frozen treat maker’s stock fell 37 percent in July after the company announced a subsidiary had violated an April credit agreement lined up by JPMorgan Chase.
In July, Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) issued failing grades to current national dairy policies during the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Oversight Hearing. Noting that most federal dairy policies date back to the 1930s and ’40s, IDFA issued a lackluster report card calling the outmoded programs “damaging, distorting and divisive.” In other news, IDFA and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) expressed concern last month over a proposal that would cut the availability of affordable, nutrient-rich milk and milk products to disadvantaged families under the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental feeding program. The proposed rule was issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA); IDFA and NMPF will further express their concerns during the 90-day comment period that began August 7. For more information, visit www.idfa.org.
Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM) and the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) have joined forces to enhance both organizations’ category-specific events and bring increased efficiency to the sales and marketing process in the grocery category for consumer packaged goods. The partnership strategically joins two industry leaders: FMI recognized for its industry leadership and solid membership base of more than 1,500 food retailers and wholesales, and ECRM for its successful business meeting process.
Plymouth, Wis.-based Sartori Food Corp. has completed the purchase of The Antigo Cheese Co. and Blackfoot Cheese Co., employee-owned manufacturers of aged Italian cheese, with facilities in Antigo, Wis. and Blackfoot, Idaho. Sartori announced in June an asset purchase agreement to acquire both cheese companies.