The small town of Arkansas City, Kan., also known as Ark City, is home to the Cowley County Waterfall, which Yahoo Travel included in its 2014 "Top 12 Most Beautiful Waterfalls in America" list. It is also home to a decidedly less touristy, but arguably equally fascinating, "attraction": a KanPak US dairy processing facility that employs aseptic technologies to create custom shelf-stable liquid-based products for quick-service restaurants, retail and other customers.
With no brands of its own gracing retail shelves or foodservice counters, KanPak US might not be a household name among U.S. consumers. But make no mistake: The company is a dairy processing powerhouse, coming in at No. 88 in Dairy Foods' 2021 listing of the top 100 North American dairy processors (Dairy 100).
Those of you who are baby boomers or older Gen Xers surely remember the old Wonder bread slogan: "helps build bodies in 12 ways." Although it was retired sometime in the 1970s, the catchphrase was seemingly everywhere for years. It referred to the vitamins and minerals added to the bread to promote health.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers ate at home more often during the past year — and many of them baked and cooked up a storm, too. That reality translated into rosy sales at retail for a number of cultured dairy categories.
Conversations tied to dairy processor sustainability typically focus on plant-level efforts such as wastewater reduction or reuse, energy-efficiency-minded improvements and recyclable product packaging.
Cultured dairy products, dairy products fermented with lactic acid bacteria, have been around for absolutely ages. The COVID-19 pandemic and a bit of innovation on the part of dairy processors, however, have combined to build consumer demand in a number of cultured dairy segments during the past year or so.
The past year saw reduced demand for cheese on the foodservice side, thanks to widespread pandemic-related restaurant closures and indoor dining bans. However, the picture was much brighter on the retail cheese side.
For many cheese producers, sourcing milk from farms within a small radius, often 100 miles or so, is very important. Doing so not only boosts sustainability by slashing transport miles, but also helps to ensure freshness.
The first thing most visitors see as they draw near to the fresh cheese plant operated by Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese LLC is a colorful, hand-painted 52-square-foot mural depicting the unique farm-to-consumer journey of the family-run company's products.