Voting has begun for the 2014 Plant of the Year. Dairy Foods has nominated 12 dairy processing plants that manufacture fluid milk, ice cream, cheese and cultured dairy products. All have been featured in the magazine and on over the previous 18 months.

The 2013 Plant of the Year was a Bel Brands cheese facility in Little Chute, Wis.

Readers’ votes will help determine the winning plant. The Plant of the Year winner will be announced in early July and featured in the August issue. Vote here. Voting ends July 6.

The nominated plants are (in alphabetical order, by company):

Agropur Natrel USA St. Paul, Minn.

Agropur is thriving in contract manufacturing aseptic and extended-shelf-life (ESL) dairy and nondairy beverages. About half of the plant’s production is in long-shelf-life products. The dairy also processes HT/ST (high temperature/short time) milk in formats ranging from paper half-pints to plastic gallons.

Central Valley Cheese, Turlock, Calif.

California’s Central Valley Cheese keeps busy by making a wide range of cheeses and cultured dairy products. The dairy products are formulated to appeal to the mainstream American palate, as well as Mediterranean, Hispanic, Indian and South Asian consumers. Customers are foodservice accounts, food processors and private label accounts.

G.S. Gelato, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

The Italian-born owners of G.S. Gelato bring their recipes and production equipment to Florida’s
Panhandle where they make authentic Italian gelato, sorbets and frozen yogurt for retail and foodservice customers.

HP Hood, Sacramento, Calif.

HP Hood fills 600 bottles a minute on its new aseptic line in its Sacramento, Calif., plant. The company processes dairy and nondairy beverages in aseptic and extended shelf life packages.

Kemps ice cream plant, Rochester, Minn.

The plant is nearly 219,000 square feet on 10 acres in downtown Rochester. It prepares 52 different ice cream mixes, runs multiple filling lines and makes an estimated 900 products for its own brand, co-pack and private label partners, and foodservice accounts. And it does this all day long, every day of the week.

Klondike Cheese Co., Monroe, Wis.

Klondike Cheese Co. is a long-time processor of branded and private-label feta, Munster and Havarti cheeses. This year, the Monroe, Wis., manufacturer added a Greek yogurt production and packaging line.

Oakhurst Dairy, Portland, Maine

Oakhurst Dairy processes dairy and nondairy beverages, along with cultured products. It is also notable for its sustainability program that reduces energy and water use.

Rhino Foods, Burlington, Vt.

Rhino Foods measures everything it does. Employees work to a goal and are rewarded when they meet the targets. Management’s reward is a smooth-running organization that fulfills customers’ needs. At its plant in Vermont, it makes ice cream sandwiches, cookie dough inclusions, brownies and cake pieces.

Smith Brothers Farms, Kent, Wash.

In August 2013, the family-owned milk processor moved from a 90-year-old facility into a newer 50,000-square-foot space that puts production, warehouse and corporate headquarters under the same roof. The new plant was designed to be hands-free. The valve matrix has eliminated all breaks and this has reduced the chance of cross contamination.

The Ice Cream Club, Boynton Beach, Fla.

Scoop shops, restaurants and retirement communities make up The Ice Cream Club’s customer base. The dairy processor offers 176 flavors of ice cream, hard packed yogurt and no-sugar-added, reduced-fat ice cream, most of which are not found in grocery stores. The company also makes 10% and 14% butterfat ice cream mixes, and 70 soft-serve yogurt and ice cream mixes.

Umpqua Dairy Products Co., Roseburg, Ore.

Umpqua Dairy is a full-line processor, making ice cream and frozen yogurt along with Grade A products including milk, eggnog, butter, cottage cheese and sour cream. The dairy received the 2013 Production Excellence Award from Quality Chekd.

Westby Cooperative Creamery, Westby, Wis.

Westby is a 110-year-old dairy producer and processor with 170 members who supply rBST-free conventional and organic milk. It has four channels of distribution: private label manufacturing, food ingredients, foodservice (schools, healthcare, restaurants and other institutional users) and retail.

Click here to cast your vote for the Dairy Foods 2014 Plant of the Year.