Wisconsin cheesemaker built a Greek yogurt production facility to meet private-label demand for the popular cultured dairy food. Monroe, Wis.-based Klondike Cheese Co. expanded its offerings into Greek yogurt products last year by building a 40,000-square-foot addition to its existing cheese facility. Klondike calls itself the first Midwest producer of Greek yogurt.

The products are sold under Klondike’s Odyssey and Adelphos lines as well as to foodservice and private label accounts in the upper Midwest.

“We feel there’s an opportunity there for the private label because most yogurt makers just sell their own label,” said VP of production Adam Buholzer. “The majority of our customer base currently is producing Greek yogurt for ingredient manufacturers to use.”

Klondike’s R&D department can create the formulization of the Greek yogurts or use the customer’s guidelines to make small batches for trial uses.

“The customer then takes that portion and finishes the development to get the end product,” he said. “The true test of success is when the Greek yogurt gets combined with other ingredients that the customer is using to create the end product.”

The fourth-generation, family-owned and -operated business has four Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers and is known for its award-winning feta, Muenster, brick and Havarti cheeses. Today, Klondike is owned by three brothers — Ron, Dave and Steve Buholzer — whose grandfather, Ernest Buholzer, began making Swiss cheese in 1925. (See Dairy Foods, June 2013.)

To make the Greek yogurt (and the cheeses), Klondike sources only milk from Wisconsin dairy farms. The company spent $12 million to build the addition and to purchase state-of-the-art processing equipment that ensures superior quality and consistency. The plant can produce 18 million pounds of yogurt a year.

“The forethought was planned to make room to double that capacity when needed,” said Buholzer. “The Greek yogurt industry is still on an uphill trend and everyday there becomes new uses for Greek yogurt.”

The plant has separate silos for the milk used for cheese and yogurt products. There are four 20,000-gallon silos for yogurt; four for feta (three 60,000-gallon and one 50,000-gallon) and three for the other cheeses (two 40,000-gallon and one 20,000).

Klondike’s Greek yogurt is available in a range of sizes, from 5.3 ounces up to 55-gallon barrels and large totes. Flavors include strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, black cherry, peach and vanilla. Zero percent, 2% and 10% plain varieties are also available.

“Although these flavors are the more common and popular, Klondike Cheese Co. is very versatile in creating some specific blends of Greek yogurt to be used as ingredients requested by our customers,” Buholzer added. “It is a niche we are good at and can appeal to the ingredient manufacturer market which is exploding in the Greek yogurt category.”

To ensure the right taste and texture, Klondike turned to a yogurt maker from Greece to help with the process. “The goal was to find a middle ground that wasn’t too tart,” Buholzer explained. “We found a nice yogurt flavor that isn’t over the top.”

The Adelphos line of reduced-fat sour cream and Greek yogurt dips launched in January 2014 and offers 50% less cholesterol, 50% less fat and 25% less sodium compared to other sour cream-based dips. The dips are available in four flavors: French onion; southwest; cucumber garlic; and red and green bell pepper.

 When it comes to flavor trends in cultured dairy, Buholzer sees dessert flavors and savory flavors as popular. “Greek yogurt,” he said, “is not only a snack but one that is becoming a sweet substitute, with dark chocolates and tropical flavors.”