Just as Dairy Foods was wrapping up its research into the 100 largest dairy processors in North America, the French dairy giant Danone announced it was buying Colorado-based WhiteWave Foods, a processor of organic dairy and plant-based beverages. The combined 2015 revenues of the two companies are $5.4 billion and that would push Danone North America from No. 15 to No. 5, ahead of such American-based dairy stalwarts as Schreiber, Land O’Lakes and Dairy Farmers of America. For this year’s Dairy 100, we are listing Danone North America (consisting of Dannon, Activia, Oikos, Stonyfield and other brands) and WhiteWave separately.

For its part, No. 14 WhiteWave in 2015 played the role of the acquirer quite nicely. In May 2015, it bought EIEIO Inc. (the company that owns the Magicow brand, among others). Then in August of that year it acquired Sequel Naturals Ltd., and 29 days later WhiteWave bought Wallaby Yogurt Co.

In May of this year, No. 2 Dean Foods Co. paid $155 million for the ice cream production business (but not the 260 restaurants) of Friendly’s. We list the beloved New England restaurateur and ice cream maker separately at No. 94 with 2015 sales of $166 million, mere pocket change for the likes of Dean Foods ($8.1 billion in 2015 sales).

Speaking of Dean, it retains its No. 2 position this year, even though sales dropped from $9.5 billion in 2014. No. 1 remains Nestle USA, with estimated sales of $11.6 billion. The U.S. arm of the Switzerland-based food, beverage and nutrition company does not report segment sales, so Dairy Foodsestimated them. The remainder of the top 10 are (in order): Saputo (also ranked third in the previous report), Schreiber Foods (No. 6), Agropur Cooperative (No. 8), Land O’Lakes (No. 4), Dairy Farmers of America (No. 5), The Kroger Co. (No. 13), Leprino Foods (No. 10) and Grupo Lala (No. 12).

Falling out of the top 10 are KraftHeinz (from No. 7 to No. 13) and Great Lakes Cheese (from No. 9 to No. 11).

Dairy Foods compiled the list by soliciting information from company officers. For some publicly held companies we turned to their annual reports and filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. We drew upon a number of other sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Federal Drug Administration’s Interstate Milk Shippers list, the AtoZ Databases, ReferenceUSA, Forbes and other published reports. Dairy Foods reviewed its estimates with the companies to give them the opportunity to revise our figures if desired. Estimated revenues are clearly marked with an asterisk.

 The online version of this report includes links to company websites and, for publicly held corporations, their annual reports and other financial data. Go to www.dairyfoods.com/2016-dairy-100. Find links to previous Dairy 100 rankings here.

The 23rd annual Dairy 100 consists of 96 processors based in the United States, three in Canada and one in Mexico.

Altogether sales at 30 of the Dairy 100 were lower in 2015 than the year before (not counting firms whose sales we estimated) and sales at 21 dairies increased. Lower milk prices in 2015 caused revenues to fall for most of the dairy co-ops on our list.

Capital expenditures

Regardless of sales increases or decreases, dairies continue to invest in the industry. No. 71 Continental Dairy Facilities told us it invested $50 million for a butter line that will allow the Michigan facility to churn a million pounds of cream per day if needed. The division of co-operative Select Milk Producers also is spending $8.6 million to build receiving bays to allow it to receive up to an additional 3 million pounds of milk per day.

Continental also said it will be building a new plant in Littlefield, Texas to balance the southwest region milk supply. The plant will be able to receive 4 million pounds daily and will produce nonfat dried milk, whole milk powder, cream, condensed and butter.

Schreiber Foods installed additional high-speed shred and slice lines in its natural cheese plant in Carthage, Mo. It added a new bottle line in Logan, Utah, to help produce protein drinks, and it completed an expansion of its Richland (Wis.) Center West Distribution Center. In  Europe, Schreiber added three more production facilities. Plants in Noblejas and Talavera de la Reina, Spain, and in Zvolen, Slovakia, supply dairy desserts, fresh cheese and yogurt to the largest supermarket chain in Spain and other major retailers in Central Europe. It completed construction on a plant in Leon, Mexico. The first pallet of cream cheese shipped from there in February 2016.

No. 16 Parmalat North America implemented a new mozzarella line in Victoriaville, Canada, and a shredded cheese line at its Nampa, Idaho plant. Parmalat also started construction on a plant in Winnipeg, Canada.

No. 19 Glanbia Nutritional (formerly Glanbia Foods) completed a 86.2 million euro ($92 million) investment in a high-end whey production facility in Idaho and expanded its Performance nutrition packaging capabilities in Chicago.

New dairy foods and beverages

No. 20 Darigold completed a $97 million expansion of a cheese, whey and whey protein concentrate processing facility in Sunnyside, Wash. The dairy co-op also launched a natural white Cheddar in retail channels.

Other Dairy 100 processors also were busy developing new products and line extensions. No. 73 Mars Ice cream introduced Dove fruit sorbet bars made with chocolate-covered berries. No. 30 Grassland came out with rBST-free retail butter products. No. 39 Agri-Mark introduced the Founders collection of Cheddar cheeses, while fellow dairy co-op No. 36 Organic Valley released Grassmilk yogurt, Snack Sticks (string cheese) and Organic Fuel (a high-protein milk in chocolate and vanilla flavors).

This year, Nestle announced it will simplify ingredients in six of its ice cream and frozen dessert brands: Dreyer’s, Häagen-Dazs, Outshine, Skinny Cow, Nestlé Ice Cream and Nestlé Drumstick. Nestle plans to remove artificial colors and flavors, high fructose corn syrup and GMO ingredients, and it will source fresh milk from cows not treated with rBST.

In December 2015, Leprino Foods Co. formed a wholly owned subsidiary called Leprino Performance Brands. In May 2016 LPB introduced a whey protein powder blend called Ascent Native Fuel, its first direct-to-consumer product.

Not all introductions were in the retail channel. Some dairies focused on institutional products. No. 45 Milk Specialties Global developed organic milk protein concentrate, WPC 80, lactose and lactose-free whey protein isolate.

Award-winning dairy foods

Besides boasting of their status as a Dairy 100 member, dairies also claimed bragging rights for their product quality. For example, No. 91 Joseph Gallo Farms won a silver and two bronze awards at the Global Cheese Awards in Frome, England, and a Best of Class award at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Wisconsin.

No. 53 Daisy Brand received many honors for its innovative squeezable sour cream packaging, including a bronze Edison award. Better Homes & Gardens honored the same product with its Best New Product award.

At the 2015 World Dairy Expo Dairy Product Championship Contest, Schreiber earned first place for its blueberry flavor Greek yogurt and for its Aussie-style blueberry yogurt.

For the eighth consecutive year, No. 52 Bel Brands USA was named one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in Chicago by the National Association for Business Resources. Bel Brands’ Mini Babybel cheese plant in Brookings, S.D., was named the 2016 Plant of the Year by Dairy Foods. See page 38.

In the boardroom

At No. 60 Swiss Valley Farms, Chris Hoeger is the new CEO. Darigold named Stan Ryan president and CEO

View the Dairy 100 List