A look inside the plant of yogurt giant Dannon
Dannon’s highly automated plant in Minster, Ohio, can process 3 million cups of yogurt a day. The 24/7 facility turns out cup-set and blended yogurts, plus cultured dairy beverages.
At A Glance
The Dannon Co., Minster, Ohio
Interstate Milk Shipper Plant 135: IMS Ratings — 90% raw milk, 90% enforcement (April 2012)
History: The first production of yogurt was in 1968, with a larger facility built in 1977. Major renovations began in 2006, and since then, have continued every year.
Size: 336,000 square feet on nearly 30 acres
Employees: 400. Four crews work 12-hour shifts on production. The plant operates seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Products made: Yogurt and cultured dairy beverages. Brands are Activia and Activia Light, Light & Fit, DanActive, Danimals Crush Cup and Drinks, Dannon Oikos, Fruit on the Bottom and other flavors. In all, the plant produces more than 100 SKUs.
Processing capacity: Approximately 2 million pounds a day
Storage silos: More than 50 100,000-pound tanks
Pasteurization types: High-temperature/short-time (HT/ST) and higher heat/shorter time (HH/ST)
Lines: More than 10 packaging lines, handling pre-formed quarts, drinks and form-fill-seal cups
Warehouse: More than 2000 skid positions
Auglaize County is a prosperous agricultural region in west central Ohio where the median household income is about $52,000 and the poverty rate is 7%, well below the state’s level of 14%. One town in the county is Minster, located about 50 miles north of Dayton. It was settled in 1832 by German immigrants. Minster’s town crest reflects the heritage of its founding fathers. The crest includes a Christian cross and two pagan symbols important to Saxons — an acorn and horse heads. A fourth symbol is a canal boat.
In 1843, the Miami and Erie Canal linked Minster to New York and New Orleans. While the waterway is long since defunct, this little town (population 2,800) continues to send products across the United States. It is home to The Dannon Co., which has been making yogurt in Minster since 1968.
Brothers Will and Paul Meyer operated a dairy in Minster. In 1968, Dannon (then owned by Beatrice Foods) leased space from the Meyers and taught them how to process yogurt. They made 13,646 cups. The next year, they turned out 1.2 million cups. Currently, Dannon can process more than 3 million cups a dayfrom this one plant. (Dannon also operates refrigerated yogurt production facilities in Fort Worth, Texas, and West Jordan, Utah.)
An array of about 10 form-fill-seal machines is the reason for the high volume. Each highly automated machine is monitored by one skilled person, who works a 12-hour shift. There are two lines for beverages. The other lines process blended and cup-set yogurts. Dannon has more than 100 SKUs and each SKU is made once or more per week depending on volume forecasts. (See “At A Glance” for the brands.)
Dairy food processing begins with milk, and Dannon requires a lot of it. The facility accepts more than 2 million pounds a day. Tankers deliver milk 18 to 20 hours a day. More than three-quarters of the milk comes from within a 100-mile radius, with the remainder coming from slightly further away. Dannon would like to find a direct milk source in Ohio, similar to its arrangement with Kansas’ McCarty Family Farms, the exclusive supplier to the Fort Worth plant from dairy farms in northwest Kansas. The deal reduces price volatility and provides other benefits. In 2011, when Dannon announced the McCarty partnership, Michael Neuwirth, senior director of public relations for Dannon, referred to the environmental benefits of the arrangement.