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As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once famously noted, “Change is the only constant in life.” And dairy processors certainly aren’t immune to that reality. Expansions, acquisitions, divestitures, partnerships, new business and lost business bring ups and downs — large and small — to a number of individual companies in any given year.

Our latest Dairy 100 rankings, based on 2017 (or latest available) revenue, reflect those changes.


Nestlé remains on top

One thing that didn’t change from last year’s list is the ranking for Nestlé. The dairy giant remains in the top spot, but with a significantly higher revenue this year because we factored in revenue from all of its North American operations, not just those from the United States.

But change can be found in the next two spots. Saputo Inc., which ranked third in last year’s rankings, edged out Dean Foods (No. 2 last year) to move to No. 2 on this year’s list.

Coming in at No. 4 is Danone North America, previously known as DanoneWave. (The company took the same spot on last year’s list.) In addition to getting a new name, the company recently became the largest Certified B Corporation in the world. The certification, by nonprofit third party B Lab, recognizes Danone North America’s efforts in doing business in a way that meets rigorous standards of verified performance, transparency and accountability.

Rounding out the top 10 are No. 5 Kraft Heinz (No. 5 last year), No. 6 Schreiber Foods (No. 6), No. 7 Agropur (No. 7), No. 8 Dairy Farmers of America (DFA, No. 8), No. 9 Land O’Lakes (No. 10) and No. 10 The Kroger Co. (No. 11).

“New” to the top 20 is the North American operation of Italy’s Parmalat Group. It was incorrectly listed as Lactalis American Group last year, which is only part of the operation. The revenue also was overstated.

Other newcomers to the list include Stonyfield Farm (No. 63), which Danone S.A. of France sold to the French Lactalis Group in 2017 (Stonyfield Farm had not been part of DanoneWave/Danone North America), and Valley Queen Cheese Factory (No. 99).

Notably not making the list this year is Fonterra (USA) Inc. (ranked No. 40 on last year’s list). It sold its 50% share in the DairiConcepts joint venture — which involved a number of processing facilities — to partner DFA back in 2015. Although the company entered the Tillamook County Creamery Association/Threemile Canyon Farms Columbia River Technologies joint venture in 2017, all of its other processing operations are contracted out to third-party manufacturers, according to a source at the company.


Other news of note

A number of acquisitions impacted the top dairy processors in 2017. One processor was Saputo, which completed the acquisition of Betin Inc., doing business as Montchevre. Its activities are conducted at one manufacturing facility located in Belmont, Wis. Montchevre manufactures, markets and distributes goat cheese in the United States, mainly under the Montchevre brand, the company noted.

And Agropur acquired the assets of Scotsburn Cooperative Services Ltd., Based in Longueuil, Quebec, in 2017. The purchase allows Canada’s largest dairy cooperative to expand its presence in the ice cream and novelties market.

Also in 2017, HP Hood purchased an idled former PepsiCo/Muller plant in upstate New York from DFA. At the time of purchase, HP Hood promised to invest more than $200 million in the 363,000-square-foot facility and create 230 jobs over the next five years.

Expansion of existing facilities also was the name of the game in 2017 for a number of processors on the Dairy 100 list. For example, Associated Milk Producers Inc. (No. 25) said it doubled the capacity at its Sanborn, Iowa, cheese plant, then followed up that investment with a new mechanical wastewater treatment facility at its Jim Falls, Wis., cheese plant.

And in addition to expanding several existing facilities, DFA celebrated the opening of DFA Garden City, a state-of-the-art dairy ingredients plant located in Southwest Kansas. The facility is a partnership between DFA and 12 of its member farms in Southwest Kansas. It will help support the industry’s continued growth in the region, as well as meet rising demand for U.S. dairy both domestically and globally, the company noted.


Go online for more

The online version of this report includes interactive charts, links to company websites and links to annual reports and financial data for publicly held companies. Visit and click on “Dairy 100” under the “Magazine” pull-down menu.


How we compiled the list

We started our research by contacting all of the companies on last year’s Dairy 100 list to request information, including their 2017 (or latest) revenues and any other updates. We also solicited information from companies that came close to making the list last year or underwent changes positively impacting growth.

For public companies that did not respond, we relied on publicly available information regarding revenue. For private companies and cooperatives, we estimated revenue. We relied on a number of sources for revenue and other information, including but not limited to the AtoZ Databases, market research firm data, and reports from Forbes and other expert sources.

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