Associated Milk Producers Inc. (AMPI) said new equipment and technology at its Paynesville, Minn., plant will allow the facility to produce more cheddar cheese.

Americans’ love for cheddar continues to grow. Consumption reached an all-time high in 2017 at more than 11 pounds per person, New Ulm, Minn.-based AMPI said.

“Making cheese is what AMPI does exceptionally well, and our customers want more of it,” said Mike Hinrichsen, vice president of cheese and whey manufacturing for the cooperative. “As consumers crave more cheese, we’re the farmer-owned cooperative that delivers.”

Paynesville cheesemakers began production this week in seven state-of-the-art cheese vats. The new equipment will grow daily cheddar cheese production to about 300,000 pounds, AMPI said. The new cheesemaking technology was also installed at AMPI’s Sanborn, Iowa, plant last December.

“The cooperative’s business plan is focused on updating cheese-making equipment and increasing capacity,” said Steve Schlangen, an Albany, Minn., dairy farmer and chairman of the AMPI board of directors. “The Paynesville project provides the capacity to process the milk produced on area member farms for years to come and cements our place in the community as a long-term employer.”

In recognition of the project’s benefits to the state’s economy, AMPI was awarded an Agriculture Growth, Research and Innovation Value Added Grant by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.