Bel Brands USA cut the ribbon today at its new $144 million cheesemaking plant in Brookings, S.D. In upstate New York, family-owned Byrne Dairy celebrated the opening of its yogurt facility. Both companies are listed on the Dairy 100, Dairy Foods' annual ranking of the largest dairy processors in North America.

Bel Brands USA, a subsidiary of Paris-based Bel Group, built its plant specifically to meet growing demand for its Mini Babybel natural cheese. The company said sales of the product increased 24% in 2013.

The plant has annual production capacity of more than 22 million pounds, or approximately 1.5 million Mini Babybel portions every day.

Bel Brands expects to use about 500,000 pounds of milk per day, which is being purchased through Dairy Farmers of America and Land O’Lakes.

The Brookings plant is the largest industrial capital expenditure in Bel Group’s history. Construction of the 170,000 square-foot facility on 48 acres began in July 2012. It uses state-of-the-art and proprietary manufacturing processes developed in Bel’s Evron, France facility.

In addition to the Brookings plant, Mini Babybel is produced in the company’s Leitchfield, Ky., plant, which is also the sole U.S. production facility for The Laughing Cow cheese wedges. A third plant, in Little Chute, Wis., was named Plant of the Year by Dairy Foods in 2013.

Byrne Dairy opens a yogurt plant in Cortland, N.Y.

Byrne Dairy Inc. celebrated the opening of its $30 million yogurt manufacturing plant today in Cortlandville, N.Y., on a former dairy farm. It will manufacture Greek and conventional-style yogurts and sour cream.

The facility includes state-of-the-art processing, filling and packaging equipment, as well as a viewing mezzanine to allow future visitors to see the entire manufacturing process.

“The opening of this plant is the culmination of years of careful planning,” said Byrne Dairy President Carl Byrne. “We really took our time, studied the market and engaged some of the best design and construction professionals in the world to make this a reality,” said Byrne.

Byrne Dairy purchased the former Finger Lakes East Business Park, a 127-acre business development site from the Cortland County Industrial Development Agency. It also purchased the original farmstead from Dick and Phyllis Osbeck whose family had lived on the site for nearly 100 years.

In addition to producing yogurt for retailers under their private labels, Byrne Dairy has launched its own Byrne Hollow Farm brand. Byrne Hollow Farm Greek yogurt is sold in local grocers throughout Central New York as well as Tops Friendly Markets, Walmart and the company’s own Byrne Dairy stores.

“Using milk from local dairy farmers, we are embracing choices for our customers to include offerings made with local rBST free milk, organic milk as well as certified organic grass fed milk,” said Marketing Director Kate Byrne.

Future plans include a cheesemaking operation, tourist facility to allow the public to view the manufacturing process, and an outdoor amphitheater for concerts and other gatherings.

Byrne Dairy is a family-owned manufacturer and distributor of milk, yogurt, dairy, and ice cream products founded in 1933. Byrne Dairy also owns and operates 54 convenience stores throughout Central New York.