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Makers of vegan pizza cheese innovate for improved options

March 24, 2023

By Rena Archwamety

MADISON, Wis. — For those who follow a vegan diet or try to avoid dairy, menu options can be limited, especially when it comes to pizza. Many companies, however, are using the latest innovations for performance, nutrition and taste to offer improved alternatives to traditional dairy cheese.

According to the latest State of the Pizzeria Industry Report, 22% of consumers want pizza restaurants to offer plant-based items. Another new report from the NPD Group shows that 25 million people consume plant-based foods and beverages regularly or occasionally, either as part of a meal or as an ingredient.

Several pizza chains across the country have added plant-based cheese options to their menus, including Papa Murphy’s which advertises Violife dairy-free cheese, UNO Pizzeria & Grill which uses Daiya vegan Mozzarella, and a number of fast-casual chains like MOD Pizza, PizzaRev and Blaze Pizza.

For those eating at home, new products featuring plant-based cheese alternatives have entered the frozen aisle as well.
Recently Daiya Foods, maker of plant-based, dairy-free products, introduced three new plant-based, allergen-friendly flatbread pizzas.

“The plant-based food industry has seen monumental success over the past few years, growing 6.2% in 2021 alone,” Daiya notes. “This seemingly permanent shift of consumers towards plant-based alternatives places expectations on leading brands to not only provide alternatives, but an array of choices on the shelf. Daiya’s launch of flatbreads does just that, following hot on the heels of the launch of their Grilling Cheeze Block and Feta Style Block (in 2022).”

The new flatbreads feature Daiya’s award-winning Cutting Board Cheeze Shreds on top of a thin gluten-free crust. The flavors include Mushroom, Caramelized Onion & Fig topped with Daiya’s Mozza- and Feta-style Cheeze; Meatless Italian Sausage Style Crumbles, Roasted Pepper & Kale, topped with Parmesan- and Feta-style Cheeze; and Tomato, Sunflower Seed Pesto & Arugula, featuring a smooth blend of Parmesan-style shreds.

• Precision fermentation

A new generation of dairy-free alternatives is poised to hit the market as technologies such as precision fermentation have advanced.

New Culture has combined traditional cheeesemaking methods with innovative food science to create its “Animal-free Mozzarella,” which it says features the taste, melt and stretch of dairy cheese, but without the environmental impacts or animal welfare concerns. New Culture is beginning public tastings this year, and it plans to launch Animal-free Mozzarella in pizzerias in early 2024.

Matt Gibson, CEO and co-founder of New Culture, says this new product was developed to help transition consumers who have been unhappy with the alternatives on the market to a better non-dairy alternative.

“Dairy cheese as we make it today is really unsustainable, but the problem is there are very poor alternatives that aren’t transistioning mainstream consumers and pizzerias. They’re very tough to work with, and there’s a whole suite of other problems like nutritional value,” Gibson says. “We need a better alternative to animal-derived dairy cheese, and that’s where New Culture comes in.”

New Culture uses precision fermentation, a technology that has been around for decades and used in food processes such as creating vegetarian rennet for cheeses. In this case, precision fermentation is utilized to create a casein protein without using animals. Using this non-animal casein protein, New Culture then “recreates a dairy milk,” adding water, fats, sugars and vitamins.

“We use microbes, which are used for fermentation, yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and other fermented foods. What precision fermentation means is using those microbes in a very precise way — instead of adding milk and turning it into cheese, we’re turning microbes specifically into casein,” Gibson explains, adding that the casein protein New Culture produces is “bioidentical to cow’s milk.”

While other companies have used precision fermentation to make whey proteins for animal-free ice cream, cream cheese and baking mixes, Gibson says New Culture will be the first to market with an animal-free casein.

“That’s important, because you can already make 99% of cheeses out there with a casein protein,” he says, “We’ll be the only company in the world that actually has an animal-free Mozzarella.”

New Culture has partnered with a Michelin Star chef to debut its Animal-free Mozzarella in their pizzeria, as well as a few other high-profile locations, in early 2024. After that, Gibson says he sees the product quickly moving to chains.

“We see a lot of demand — too much than what we can supply in the beginning — but there is a lot of demand out there,” he says.

And while this new method is versatile enough to make a whole suite of different animal-free cheeses, Gibson says the focus right now is on Mozzarella.

“Mozzarella is the most-consumed cheese in the U.S., the biggest cheese market, and where we can have the most impact as a mission-driven company,” he says.

• Cheesemaking traditions

For companies currently offering plant-based cheese alternatives, improvements in ingredients and formulations also have helped to improve the use of these products on pizza and other menu items.

Vevan Foods, a division of Schuman Cheese, creates vegan-certified products for dairy-free consumers. The company combines the talents of its award-winning cheesemakers with high-quality plant-based ingredients to make shredded, sliced and spreadable cheese alternatives.

“We took a very firm stance at the beginning of this brand to bring the art of cheesemaking to the non-dairy world, creating flavors like traditional Mozzarella and Cheddar using techniques traditional to artisanal cheesemaking,” says Keith Schuman, business unit lead, Vevan Foods. “We’re using traditional fermentation, and because it’s a fermented product, it includes probiotics and other traditional benefits.”

Vevan, which initially launched its Mozza-Shreds in 2020, has made a number of formulation changes and product improvement since then.

“This past June, we made the most important change. I feel like we have a really good melt and a really good flavor,” Schuman says. “The next frontier is really getting the mouthfeel right and a nice stretch.”

For pizza applications, Schuman adds that the product gets a solid browning with slightly higher heats than used on traditional cheese to make it look and feel like dairy-based Mozzarella.

“Pizza is really the one application we have optimized since we started the plant-based brand,” he says. “It’s an aggressive way to cook cheese, a lot of times directly on an open flame and under really high heat. We really saw this as the most important cooking application and wanted to make sure the cheese stands up to the same tests as traditional dairy.”

In addition to the Mozza-Shreds, Schuman says the Mozza-Melts, originally designed as a sandwich-style slice, also work well in place of fresh Mozzarella on a margherita-style pizza. This past October, Vevan also debuted new Mexican-style and hot-and-spicy shred blends for retail that work well on pizza applications.

Representing a company rooted in the cheese and dairy industry that also offers plant-based options, Schuman says he sees a healthy symbiosis between the two.

“I’m very much a dairy eater and eat cheese often, but I think there’s an opportunity for plant-based, especially as it gets better,” he says. “There’s a base of people who simply can’t eat dairy, or who have environmental concerns, and choose a different diet for whatever reason, and want a suitable alternative. Who’s to say they should be excluded from a cheese-eating occasion?”

Currently Vevan uses modified potato starch with coconut and palm oils for its base. Schuman notes there are many interesting advances in ingredients, such as in proteins, starches and raw materials, that will help further improve plant-based cheeses. Finding ways to add protein and make the product more nutritious is a big goal, though at the end of the day, consumers want a familiar taste and feel of the product.

“We’ve seen a lot of cool new companies come in and new ways to source and produce some of our inputs. All of that is music to our ears,” Schuman says. “There is a lot of experimentation happening, and I think it’s really exciting for the industry.”


Tillamook buys former Prairie Farms Illinois ice cream plant

March 24, 2023

TILLAMOOK, Ore. — Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) recently announced plans to open an ice cream manufacturing facility in Decatur, Illinois, in late 2024.

The Decatur facility will be TCCA’s first owned and operated manufacturing facility outside of Oregon and will be the only facility solely dedicated to ice cream production. The plant will manufacture Tillamook family-size (48-ounce) ice cream as well as Tillamook foodservice ice cream (3 gallon).

“Consumer demand for Tillamook Ice Cream has grown exponentially over the past several years,” says Mike Bever, executive vice president of operations for TCCA. “This new facility is an investment in our continued national expansion plans. We are proud to be able to expand our manufacturing footprint even further as another step toward bringing Tillamook to more fans around the country.”

The Decatur plant previously was owned by Prairie Farms, which also used it for ice cream production until it was closed in early 2022. Earlier this week, Harry Davis & Company announced that the former Prairie Farms Ice Cream Specialties facility was sold to TCCA. Harry Davis & Company had acquired the legacy dairy facility from Prairie Farms with the intention of identifying a new operator, continuing local production and securing jobs in the community.

This deal puts the facility — which can produce more than 14 million gallons of ice cream a year at peak — on the road to full production. TCCA will spend the next 18 to 24 months updating the plant to bring it up to TCCA’s manufacturing quality standards with a goal of October 2024 for the first full ice cream production run. The new plant is expected to create approximately 45 new jobs in the Decatur community.

“Sales of ice cream spiked nationwide throughout the pandemic, making it a challenging time for companies looking to add capacity. Tillamook is one of the country’s fastest growing ice cream brands, so this acquisition makes sense. With expanded hiring and production on the horizon, it’s a win-win for the community and the buyer,” says Lenny Davis, CEO, Harry Davis & Company.

“Tillamook’s plans to operate here are very exciting for our community, and we are proud that another company has chosen Decatur for their first Midwest facility,” says Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe. “This project also advances Neighborhood Revitalization, as the now-empty building along the MLK corridor will again be a bustling part of our economy as soon as next year.”

Bever adds that opening the Illinois manufacturing location will enable Tillamook to make more of its ice cream closer to the eastern United States, where demand is growing fast.

“In the last year, we’ve added 1.6 million households and grown ice cream sales nearly 60% in the eastern U.S.,” Bever says. “Ultimately our continued growth is a ‘win’ for who and what matters most to us. It allows us to continue to generate meaningful profits for our farmer-owners, create growth and well-being opportunities for our 900-plus employees and to give back to the communities where we live and work. Now we get to welcome Decatur into that valued group.”


February milk production up 1% over year ago in major states

March 24, 2023

WASHINGTON — Milk production in the 24 major milk-producing states in February totaled 16.91 billion pounds, up 1.0% from February 2022, according to data released this week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). For the entire United States, January milk production was estimated at 17.68 billion pounds, up 0.8% from February 2022. (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Milk Production chart.)

NASS reports January’s revised production for the 24 major states totaled 18.47 billion pounds, an increase of 5 million pounds or less than half a percent from last month’s preliminary production estimate.

February production per cow in the 24 major states averaged 1,892 pounds, seven pounds more than February 2022 and 177 pounds less than January. For the entire United States, production per cow in February is estimated at 1,877 pounds, also seven pounds more than February 2022 and down 176 pounds from January.

NASS reports the number of milk cows on farms in the 24 major states was 8.94 million head in February, up 54,000 head from February 2022 and up 12,000 head from January. In the entire United States, there were an estimated 9.42 million milk cows in February, up 37,000 cows from February 2022 and up 12,000 cows from January.

California led the nation’s milk production in February with 3.28 billion pounds of milk, down 0.9% from February 2022. Wisconsin followed with 2.45 billion pounds of milk produced in February, up 0.3% from February 2022.


Schuman Cheese continues legacy of innovative, award-winning products

BFAIRFIELD, N.J. — Schuman Cheese’s latest introductions, from extra-aged Parmesan to Mascarpone truffles to a plant-based cream cheese alternative, continue to lead with innovation while carrying on the family company’s four generations of quality and care.

“I think Schuman Cheese, by our DNA, has always been an innovative company,” says Allison Schuman, chief revenue officer. “It’s who we are as entrepreneurs — we put a lot of emphasis on leading-edge innovation. We see how consumers are looking at the market, jump in, and see what is really exciting ... we’re always pushing the envelope on innovation.”

The company started in 1945 with Arthur Schuman and his sons Jerome and Howard, who began importing cheeses from South America. Schuman remains a prolific importer of high-quality cheeses, but the company also has developed a reputation for its own award-winning cheeses and other innovative products under its brands that include Cello, Yellow Door Creamery, and more recently Delve and Vevan.

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Dairy industry works around disruptions from snow, floods

March 17, 2023

MADISON, Wis. — Volatile weather conditions in California and the Northeast over the past week have resulted in power outages, road closures, evacuations and some damages.

A nor’easter brought up to three feet of snow to some areas of New England this week, with some concerns regarding delays in milk pickups and transport due to poor road conditions, reports USDA’s Dairy Market News.

Shaw Farm, a century-old dairy farm in Dracut, Massachusetts, that also sells bottled milk and ice cream made on-site, lost some of its cows due to a barn that collapsed under the weight of the snow.

“Thankfully, no staff members were hurt. Sadly, we did lose a few of our animals. We are extremely grateful to everyone who came to our aid this afternoon including our staff, family, fellow farmers, neighbors, friends and the Dracut Police and Fire Department,” Shaw Farm posted Tuesday on social media, adding that it still was open for regular business and selling its milk and ice cream.

Agri-Mark cooperative, which has members throughout New England and plants in Vermont, Massachusetts and New York, worked around the severe conditions to minimize delays in pickups.

“We had minimal disruptions over the last couple of days thanks to our dedicated milk haulers and their collaborative work with our field staff and transportation teams,” says Amber Sheridan, director of corporate communications for Agri-Mark. “Many haulers adjusted milk assembly and delivery times to avoid the worst of the storm. We appreciate all that our haulers do for us, especially during such an intense storm.”

Meanwhile in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom proclaimed a state of emergency to support storm response efforts for dozens of counties impacted by flooding. Last Friday, the White House approved a Presidential Emergency Declaration authorizing federal assistance to support the state and local response to continuous storms impacting much of the state, which were forecasted to continue through mid-March.

“We are grateful for President Biden’s swift action to provide more resources and assistance to Californians reeling from back-to-back storms,” Newsom says. “We also thank all the heroic first responders working tirelessly to save lives in these dangerous and challenging conditions. California will continue to work day and night with local, state and federal partners to protect and support communities.”

As the most recent atmospheric river has continued to cause flooding, high winds and power outages, several California counties have announced evacuation orders. As recently as Wednesday, Tulare County Sheriff deputies were going door to door to inform people living in certain areas of the county that they needed to get out.

Dairy Market News this week reported weather events and road closures in California impacted volumes at some milk plants.

“The Central Valley area contacts report balanced milk volumes for bottling and production needs, while other stakeholders report tighter availability of milk volumes due to weather events causing road closures in parts of California. Contacts report snow in the northern part of the state causing delivery problems and some unplanned downtime at plants,” Dairy Market News says.

“Availability of condensed skim milk is mixed,” Dairy Market News adds. “Some stakeholders report balanced volumes, while others report tighter volumes from weather events causing road closures in parts of California.”


Dairy industry adds capacity, invests in product innovation

March 17, 2023

Editor’s note: Plants in Progress is a special segment spotlighting new facilities and expansion in the U.S. dairy sector — from initial groundbreaking to full operation and everything in between.

By Alyssa Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — Product innovation is spurring capacity increases and infrastructure upgrades at dairy facilities throughout the United States. From specialized dry ingredients to frozen novelties to state-of-the-art research hubs, the dairy industry is investing in its future.

And the future looks bright, as the University of Wisconsin system gears up to debut new, revamped education and research facilities in Madison and River Falls while work also continues on a new Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) at the University of Idaho.

West Coast companies including Darigold, Hilmar Cheese and Valley Milk are ramping up capacity for innovative ingredients while Wisconsin’s Decatur Dairy, Emmi Roth, Renards and Saputo are expanding to meet ever-increasing consumer appetites for quality cheese. Not to mention investments from companies in other states including Valley Queen Cheese, Great Lakes Cheese and Leprino Foods.

Fluid beverage innovation continues to evolve at Cayuga Milk Ingredients, Danone and O-AT-KA, while Perry’s Ice Cream is expanding to accommodate the growing demand for frozen novelties.

On the supplier side, Nelson-Jameson is investing in enhanced distribution capabilities while GEA boosts infrastructure in response to growing demand for separators, decanters, valves, pumps and homogenizers.

Please read on for more on these Plants in Progress ...

Cayuga Milk Ingredients, Auburn, New York

Cayuga Milk Ingredients (CMI) late last year announced a significant expansion to its Auburn, New York, facility. Construction is expected to begin this spring, and the project will add an aseptic processor, bottling and packaging line, allowing CMI to produce finished products for the extended-shelf-life beverage market. Additionally, improvements will be made with expanded wastewater treatment facilities, developing stormwater retention, trucking and parking enrichments, and utility upgrades.

The high-speed bottling line will have the ability to produce up to 150,000 gallons of milk-based drinks per day. Products will be palletized and then stored on-site in a warehouse using state-of-the-art Automate Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) technology.

The expansion is predicted to create 70 full-time positions as well as additional construction jobs and retention of the current staff of 91.

This expansion into bottling is a new venture for Cayuga and will help meet the demand for shelf-stable contract manufacturing demanded by the marketplace.

The company also is investing in additional raw milk receiving with two more bays to enable 80 tractor trailers to pass through the doors per day between deliveries and loadout to customers. This will ensure CMI can continue to accept fresh local milk and efficiently send out nutritional product.

“Cayuga is strong and profitable, with a long history of growth and transition. We’re looking forward to the future with ambitious projects, like aseptic, that let us build on the dependable people and progress we have developed over the last eight years,” says Neil Rejman, board chairman of CMI.

• Danone North America, Jacksonville, Florida

Danone North America recently announced it will invest up to $65 million over the next two years to create a new bottle production line in Jacksonville, Florida. The investment will support Danone North America’s long-term growth strategy and will deliver key benefits across the U.S. business, including advancing operational excellence, enabling flexibility in bottle design, accelerating the company’s sustainability goals and driving cost efficiencies.

“We are delighted to announce this investment in our North American business, which will allow us to capitalize on consumer demand in key beverage categories including coffee creamers, plant-based creamers and ready-to-drink coffee, while also supporting our long-term growth agenda,” says Shane Grant, group deputy CEO, Danone Americas.

The $65 million investment will increase production of several of Danone’s coffee and creamer brands in the United States, including International Delight, Silk and SToK. It also serves to meet consumer demand in these categories while supporting the company’s sustainability goal by reducing overall water consumption, decreasing carbon emissions and accelerating the company’s goal of packaging circularity.

The expansion will create up to 40 new full-time jobs with competitive wages and benefits. New employees will be eligible for Danone North America’s parental bonding leave policy, enabling all manufacturing employees with one year of tenure to take up to 18 weeks of paid time off after the birth or adoption of a child.

“We are thrilled to be investing in the people and economy of Jacksonville, creating 40 new jobs in addition to supporting our approximately 110 existing employees, all with competitive wages and benefits,” says Mike Sloboda, Danone North America’s chief operations officer. “This investment will allow us to better serve our customers and operate our business in an even more efficient and sustainable way.”

• Darigold Inc., Pasco, Washington

Darigold Inc. last year broke ground on a new production facility in Pasco, Washington. When fully operational, the $600 million facility will process approximately 8 million pounds of milk per day from more than 100 dairy farms in surrounding communities. Darigold expects the facility to be operational by early 2024 and plans to hire about 200 employees.

Chris Arnold, vice president and head of communication for Darigold, says the project is “full speed ahead,” and construction is coming along nicely.
The Pasco facility will be outfitted with two specialized milk dryers and two packaging lines for powdered milk products or “premium proteins,” two butter churns, two bulk butter packaging lines for commercial and institutional customers, and five consumer butter packaging lines.

When fully operational, the facility will have the capacity to produce approximately 175 million pounds of butter and nearly 280 million pounds of powdered milk annually.

• Decatur Dairy, Brodhead, Wisconsin

Decatur Dairy and members of the Decatur Swiss Cheese Co. Cooperative in August officially broke ground on a $6 million cheese plant addition in Brodhead, Wisconsin. The 24,000-square-foot expansion will add packaging,
curing and warehousing capacity.

Coinciding with the expansion is a change to the dairy’s business structure. The co-op previously owned the land and building, while the dairy owned the equipment and handled the marketing. Now a new company — Decatur Cheese Plant LLC, a 50/50 joint venture between the dairy and co-op — will own the building and land. The dairy will continue to handle marketing and will own the equipment, while the co-op members have secured a 20-year agreement for their milk to go to the plant.

According to Steve Stettler, Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker and owner of Decatur Dairy, the building expansion is totally enclosed, work continues on the inside and the company is looking at a July occupancy.

“It is a much-needed addition to the facility to meet the needs of our customers’ growth,” he says.

• Emmi Roth USA, Stoughton, Wisconsin

Emmi Roth is continuing construction on its new 134,000-square-foot headquarters and cheese conversion facility in Stoughton, Wisconsin. The new facility will support Emmi Roth’s acquisition of the Athenos business, including the leading Feta brand in America. With the acquisition came the need for more conversion and distribution capabilities, the company notes.

The facility will add approximately 100 new local jobs for distribution and cheese conversion. Conversion allows Emmi Roth to provide different packaging options to customers and consumers based on their needs — which may be a cup, bag, chunk, wedge or other form.

The new facility is being constructed with a number of sustainable features to support the company’s goal to achieve net zero by 2050 and is expected to reduce transportation lanes by 49%, reduce trips per year by 26% and provide a significant reduction in emissions related to transportation.

Concrete finishers, ironworkers, roofers, masons and other skilled tradespeople have been busy working on the new facility. Recent activities include the final slab-on-grade pour and completion of the roof installation for the cold storage facility. Erection of the cooling tower platform on the engine room roof also has started.

Crews also have been preparing for additional underground work to begin. Underground work includes items such as floor drains, electrical conduits and floor boxes that need to be in place before the concrete slabs are poured.

Emmi Roth plans to begin hiring employees for the conversion facility this summer. Project completion is anticipated by the end of the year. When completed, it will become the new Emmi Roth headquarters, housing the corporate office team currently based in Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Other Emmi Roth locations include Monroe, Platteville and Seymour, Wisconsin.

• GEA, Janesville, Wisconsin

GEA in November marked the official start of construction on its new repair, logistics, assembly, production and training facility in Janesville, Wisconsin. The groundbreaking ceremony of GEA’s first greenfield site in North America in 50 years was attended by company representatives and officials from the state of Wisconsin and city of Janesville.

GEA will invest more than $20 million in the new site in response to growing demand for separators, decanters, valves, pumps and homogenizers, which are at the heart of many industrial production processes. The 85,000-square-foot building is scheduled for completion in late 2023.
In addition to modern office space, the facility will house a training center for customers and employees. The remaining space will be used for the repair of mechanical equipment and logistics.

Located approximately 80 miles west of Milwaukee and 40 miles south of Madison, the new GEA facility will create more than 70 jobs.

“The Janesville facility will bring us closer to our growing Midwest customer base, and it will enable us to meet the growing demand for our products,” says Azam Owaisi, CEO, GEA North America. “As the new facility will have production capabilities to finalize separator, decanter, valve and pump assembly, GEA will fully meet the ‘Built in America’ mandates if required. We would like to thank the city of Janesville leadership for their cooperation and support.”

• Great Lakes Cheese Co., Abilene, Texas, and Franklinville, New York

Great Lakes Cheese Co. earlier this year opened a new plant in Abilene, Texas, its ninth manufacturing facility. The newest packaging conversion plant has 160 employee-owners, with 100 more planned to join by late summer.

To celebrate the opening, the Epprecht family, management team and department leaders hosted a special event in January for customers, suppliers, key partners, Abilene employee-owners and the Abilene community. Great Lakes hosted several different activities including a Cheese 101 experience with local high school students, interactive culture and team-building activities for new employee-owners, and meet and greets in the community with local organizations and the public.

Great Lakes Cheese also is building a new manufacturing and packaging plant in Franklinville, New York. With a capital investment of more than $500 million, the project is the largest infrastructure investment in the company’s history and will nearly double the size of its current workforce in the Southern Tier of New York.

The new plant will replace the existing facility in Cuba, New York, upon completion. Although the Cuba facility will cease operations with Great Lakes Cheese, discussions are underway to identify possible future uses for the site, company officials say.

The Franklinville project is on track to potentially open later this year to start limited production in 2024, and it will be completed in early 2025, company officials say.

• Hilmar Cheese Co., Dodge City, Kansas

Hilmar Cheese Co. is building a new state-of-the-art cheese and whey protein processing plant in Dodge City, Kansas. The new facility is expected to create 250 new jobs and represents more than $600 million in capital investment.

The first walls were lifted into place earlier this month. Site work, underground conduits and foundation construction continue, company officials say.
“We are very excited about this new facility and being part of the Dodge City community,” says David Ahlem, president and CEO, Hilmar Cheese Co.

Hilmar is recruiting for key positions in Dodge City, including maintenance, safety, training, human resources and operations management. More information about open positions can be found on the company website at
The facility is expected to be operational in 2024.

• Leprino Foods Co., Lubbock, Texas

Denver-based Leprino Foods Co. late last year broke ground on a new 850,000-square-foot state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in East Lubbock, Texas. Supported by world-class food safety, operations, training and maintenance programs, as well as monitored and controlled through leading-edge automation and instrumentation, the facility expands Leprino’s existing domestic network of manufacturing facilities.

The plant will be constructed in two phases. Phase one construction will be completed in late 2024 and operational in early 2025. Phase two is slated to be completed by early 2026. This investment will result in $10.6 billion over the next 10 years for the state of Texas. The plant will be supplied by regional dairies and roughly 200 milk trucks per day to produce more than 1 million pounds of cheese daily. Other products that will be produced at this facility include dairy ingredients such as whey and lactose.

•Nelson-Jameson, Jerome, Idaho

Nelson-Jameson last fall held a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the building of its new distribution facility in Jerome, Idaho. The state-of-the-art facility will be the company’s most technologically advanced distribution center to date and will include approximately 1.5 million cubic feet of combined storage, office space, refrigerated and frozen storage areas, along with a service and maintenance area.

“Dairy is Idaho’s No. 1 agricultural commodity, and it’s the third-largest producer of milk in our country. Nelson-Jameson’s expansion in Idaho will strategically support the growth trajectory of the dairy industry in the Pacific Northwest region and add additional job opportunities,” says Mike Rindy, president, Nelson-Jameson. “We are proud to be making such a significant investment in this region, and we are prioritizing the environment as we build out our new state-of-the-art facility.”

Reducing carbon footprint and improving sustainability for the dairy industry is an important goal for the company. Therefore, the new distribution center has been designed to include the latest architectural energy savings tactics, including insulated concrete tilt wall panels, all LED lighting, occupancy sensors for all lighting, high-efficiency HVAC systems, electronically controlled warehouse ventilation and use of high-efficiency warehouse storage systems.

The 45,000-square-foot building is tentatively scheduled for completion at the end of this year. Peterson Brothers of Twin Falls, Idaho, is the general contractor, and Excel Engineering of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, is the designer.

• O-AT-KA Milk Products, Batavia, New York

O-AT-KA Milk Products LLC recently commenced construction on a 3,200-square-foot facility expansion in the town of Batavia, New York.
O-AT-KA Milk Products’ $3.1 million investment will house two new 18,000-gallon tanks to increase capacities of cream-based liquor beverages and future expansions.

O-AT-KA Milk Products has been a part of the Genesee County community since 1959. Some of the company’s products include dairy-based beverages, evaporated milk, butter, milk powder and other dairy products. This investment allows O-AT-KA Milk Products to diversify its offerings of dairy-based beverages.

• Perry’s Ice Cream, Akron, New York

Empire State Development (ESD), New York state’s chief economic development agency, late last year announced Perry’s Ice Cream Co. Inc. is expanding its production capabilities to meet the growth of the novelty market, adding 20,000 square feet to its manufacturing facility in Akron, New York. To better accommodate the growing demand for frozen Greek yogurt novelties, Perry’s also will purchase new machinery and equipment. The company has committed to creating up to 15 new jobs as part of the expansion project; 370 jobs will be retained.

“Generations of Western New Yorkers have had a sweet tooth for Perry’s ice cream, and I am very pleased Empire State Development could help ensure this longtime manufacturer continues to grow, compete and create new jobs here,” says Hope Knight, president, CEO and commissioner, ESD.

The frozen novelty market is a $5 billion industry globally that is seeing exponential annual growth. To meet this growing demand, Perry’s will establish a new extruded novelty line that will serve its current and future contract manufacturing customers. The new line will have the ability to craft conventional ice cream-based options as well as sorbet, yogurt, non-dairy varieties and more. The $18 million project includes the addition of a 20,000-square-foot building to house the new extruded ice cream novelty machine and conveyor systems, as well as upgrades to an existing building’s engine room and pump room.

“Western New York is an ideal place for us to operate our growing business, service our customer base and expand our offerings,” says Robert Denning, president and CEO, Perry’s. “We are grateful to ESD for providing support for our latest business opportunity. We also recognize that our success is the direct result of our team’s dedication and commitment to making the highest-quality and most delicious products.”

ESD is assisting Perry’s by providing up to $365,000 in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits in exchange for job creation commitments. Perry’s expects to be operational in the new space by late this summer.

• Renards Cheese, Algoma, Wisconsin

Renards Cheese late last year broke ground on a new production facility on County Highway S in Algoma, Wisconsin. The expansion, which encompasses three phases, will include a new production facility as well as an on-site exact-weight cut-and-wrap operation and warehouse.
Company officials say the 50,000-square-foot project will help Renards become more effective and allow it to meet growing needs for increased production. The first phase is expected to be complete this spring, with the second phase completed in 2024.

The company can produce up to 3 million pounds of cheese at its current facility, which was built in the 1920s. Upon full completion, the new facility
will be able to produce up to 12 million pounds of cheese per year.

• Saputo Dairy USA, Franklin and Reedsburg, Wisconsin, and Tulare, California

Construction is underway on a greenfield facility in Franklin, Wisconsin, to consolidate and modernize Saputo Dairy USA’s cut-and-wrap activities. This state-of-the-art facility will become the center of Saputo’s expanded cut-and-wrap capabilities in the Midwest and is expected to result in the creation of 600 jobs. This new facility represents an investment of C$240 million and is slated to be operating at full capacity by the third quarter of fiscal 2025.

Once operational, Saputo anticipates transferring existing packaging operations from other manufacturing sites to its new facility in Franklin.
Meanwhile, after ceasing cut-and-wrap activities at its Bardsley Street facility in Tulare, California, as announced in fiscal 2022, Saputo now intends to invest C$75 million to convert this location into a String cheese packaging facility. The investment will help support the company’s growth ambitions and sustain its leadership position in the String cheese product category, officials say. The facility is slated to be operating at full capacity by the third quarter of fiscal 2025.

Saputo also plans to invest C$45 million to convert its long-standing Mozzarella manufacturing facility in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, to a goat cheese manufacturing plant to increase capacity, expand its position in growing specialty cheese categories and improve productivity. In line with the company’s strategy to modernize its Mozzarella operations, current cheese manufacturing from this facility will be transferred to other existing Saputo facilities in the USA Sector, increasing capacity utilization, improving operational efficiencies and reducing costs.

• University of Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE), Rupert, Idaho

Dairy sustainability scientists and innovators soon will have the nation’s largest research hub to test their ideas and develop technologies in the Pacific Northwest as support is ramping up for the new Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) at the University of Idaho.
Located in the nation’s third-largest dairy-producing state and home to a thriving agriculture sector, CAFE is designed with the size and scale of a commercial dairy, with additional capabilities to grow and study crops used for animal nutrition. Researchers will examine the sustainability of the dairy farming value chain from feed to milk and beyond to help bring solutions to dairy farmers in the Western region for years to come. In addition, innovators will study additional revenue streams for farmers beyond milk from emerging bio-based products and carbon credit markets.
Cargill recently announced it is donating $500,000 to the University of Idaho for the project.

“Supporting the next generation of agriculture sustainability experts and the dairy farmers who will benefit from their advancements is important to our company,” says Julie Abrahamzon, commercial director for Cargill’s animal nutrition business in North America. “We are making investments in projects like U of Idaho’s CAFE because we believe in the future of the dairy industry.”

Burley-based Redox Bio-Nutrients also recently announced a $500,000 gift to the groundbreaking effort.

“Collectively, we can move mountains,” says Michael Parrella, dean of the University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “From the Idaho Legislature to Redox and others in agriculture, it truly is a remarkable partnership that will pay widespread dividends.”

The Idaho CAFE will be the largest and most advanced research center targeting the dairy and allied industries, according to the U of I. It will support a sustainable dairy production system located in a semi-arid environment. Idaho CAFE will support workforce development, education and community engagement in the state and region.

The CAFE will have three locations, including a Food Processing Pilot Plant located in Twin Falls on the College of Southern Idaho campus.
The core of CAFE is a 2,000-cow commercial-scale dairy located in Rupert. The site also consists of 1,200 additional acres for complementary agronomic research, feed production and nutrient management.

An Outlook and Education Center will be located in Jerome and will provide a window into agriculture, food production, water, power and energy.

The $22.5 million multiphase project will begin milking its first cows by the end of 2024 and will house 2,000 cows when fully operational.

• University of Wisconsin-Madison, Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and Center for Dairy Research, Madison, Wisconsin

The public is invited to visit Babcock Hall’s new and improved facilities during an open house April 14 from 2-4 p.m. on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus. The event will feature an interactive self-guided tour highlighting the building’s new state-of-the-art spaces, including the Center for Dairy Research (CDR) addition and the renovated Babcock Hall Dairy Plant. During the tour, participants will learn about the facilities by visiting eight stations, many featuring samples of goods produced in the building, including CDR cheeses and Babcock ice cream.

Babcock Hall was built in the early 1950s and today houses the Department of Food Science, the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant, the Babcock Hall Dairy Store and CDR. This construction project represented the first major upgrade to the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant since then. It also provided CDR, which was established in 1986, with the space and equipment it needs to meet its research and outreach mission.

• University of Wisconsin-River Falls, River Falls, Wisconsin

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) continues its installation process and anticipates a summer grand reopening of its revamped dairy plant. UWRF renovated its 30-year-old dairy plant to provide teaching and training opportunities that will give graduates a competitive edge. The pilot plant has been completely rebuilt, doubling in size to 6,500 square feet.

Naming opportunities still are available to support the renovation, with some of the latest investments coming from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery (naming the Dairy Plant Manager office), Associated Milk Producers Inc. (naming the Donor Alcove), Dave and Frankie Lenzmeier (naming the Food Science Entry Staircase, which will highlight dairy industry careers), Nasonville Dairy Inc./Heiman Family (naming the Dairy Education Corridor, which will highlight dairy processing), Nelson-Jameson (naming the Dairy Plant Lab as well as establishing two Nelson-Jameson scholarships) and Compeer Financial (naming the plant viewing windows).

In addition, UWRF recently announced the establishment of the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence, which will provide new opportunities to students and industry professionals thanks to a $1 million investment from the Wuethrich Family Foundation and Grassland Dairy Products Inc.

When the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence comes online this summer, it will be able to offer new research opportunities and additional short courses with the new equipment. It also will provide employment opportunities for students to work in the facility as well as to do research with UWRF Assistant Professor Grace Lewis, who joined the faculty last year through funding from the Dairy Innovation Hub to specialize in dairy processing.

“We did have dairy industry partners step up and support our additional naming opportunities throughout the dairy plant and food science building. We thank these companies and alumni for their continued support,” says Julie Stucky, advancement officer, UWRF.

• Valley Milk, Turlock, California

Valley Milk LLC earlier this year announced a 10,000-square-foot expansion of its milk processing facility in Turlock, California. Consistent with the overall business strategy of creating value-added products, the ownership of Valley Milk LLC announced its intention to begin producing anhydrous milkfat (AMF) at the facility in 2024.

“In discussions with various customers, we believe the U.S. marketplace has a need for additional high-quality AMF for use in the ice cream and confectionary business. Additionally, there are strategic opportunities to export AMF into the international market,” says Valley Milk CEO Glenn Wallace.

The 10,000-square-foot expansion will provide the capability to produce AMF in drums, totes and eventually pails to serve industrial and foodservice customers. Valley Milk will continue to market bulk cream in California.

“We are excited about the continued growth of our customer relationships, and the AMF project will allow us to provide an additional line of product to market domestically and into the world market,” says Valley Milk Chairman Don Machado.

Valley Milk LLC is a state-of-the-art 24/7/365 powdered milk ingredient processing facility on a 30-acre site in Turlock, California. The plant is designed for and has capacity to process 2.5 million pounds of raw milk per day.

• Valley Queen Cheese, Milbank, South Dakota

Valley Queen Cheese held a groundbreaking event last summer to celebrate its new expansion project in Milbank, South Dakota.

The project is going well and is right on track in spite of a few winter weather delays, officials say. Construction crews have completed all of the foundation work for the new four-bay drive-through intake, warehouse and new employe facility/office area. In the last few weeks, the steel erection has progressed very quickly on the warehouse, and last week, the crew began erecting the employee facility/office.

The expansion is set to be fully operational by January 2025 and will be the largest in the company’s 93-year history.


U.S. requests consultations with Mexico over ag biotech

March 17, 2023

WASHINGTON — The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) last week announced it is requesting technical consultations with the government of Mexico under the sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures chapter of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). These consultations regard certain Mexican measures concerning products of agricultural biotechnology.

“The United States has repeatedly conveyed serious concerns with Mexico’s biotechnology policies and the importance of adopting a science-based approach that complies with its USMCA commitments,” says U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. “Mexico’s policies threaten to disrupt billions of dollars in agricultural trade, and they will stifle the innovation that is necessary to tackle the climate crisis and food security challenges if left unaddressed. We hope these consultations will be productive as we continue to work with Mexico to address these issues.”

Mexico is one of the United States’ oldest and strongest trading partners, USTR says, adding that the U.S.-Mexico relationship is rooted in trust and honesty, and there are many ways in which the two countries can cooperate and work together. The U.S. government’s intention is that through this process, it can reach an outcome that respects each country’s sovereignty and benefits the United States, Mexico and their respective agricultural producers and stakeholders.

“Mexico is an important partner, and we remain committed to maintaining and strengthening our economic ties. A robust, transparent agricultural trading relationship, founded on rules and science, is vital to ensuring food security, mitigating the lingering effects of food price inflation and helping to address the climate crisis. Innovations in agricultural biotechnology play a key role in advancing these critical, global objectives,” says U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “While we appreciate the sustained, active engagement with our Mexican counterparts at all levels of government, we remain firm in our view that Mexico’s current biotechnology trajectory is not grounded in science, with is the foundation of USMCA.”

Last week’s announcement follows extensive engagement by USTR and USDA with the Mexican government on its biotech policies. On Jan. 30, the United States sent a formal, written request to Mexico for “an explanation of the reasons for” and “pertinent relevant information regarding” certain Mexican measures concerning biotech products. Mexico provided a written response on Feb. 14, which will help inform technical consultations.

USTR and USDA urge all of the United States’ trading partners to follow a science-based approach to biotech products, which help U.S. farmers respond to pressing climate and food security challenges. USTR notes Mexico is a valued trading partner, and the United States is committed to working with it to resolve these biotech issues and avoid any disruption in trade in corn or other agricultural products. If these issues are not resolved, USTR will consider all options, including taking formal steps to enforce U.S. rights under the USMCA.


Outlook notes low prices, high input costs squeeze value chain

March 10, 2023

WASHINGTON — According to a new report from Rabobank, participants all along the dairy value chain are being squeezed. Producers’ milk prices have tumbled from 2022’s elevated levels while feed prices are at record highs. Processors and dairy cooperatives entered the year discounting expensive inventory made with high-priced milk. Meanwhile, higher inflation and rising interest rates are pressuring consumers toward more frugal purchasing behavior, Rabobank says it its latest Global Dairy Quarterly report, “The Squeeze is On.”

Greater year-on-year milk production growth has emerged in 2023 in key export regions compared to 2022’s low levels, the report notes. At the same time, farmgate milk prices are catching up to global commodity market trends and have moved lower. Expensive input costs remain a clear headwind worldwide and, combined with lower milk prices, are resulting in farm-level margin pressure. In response, dairy cow slaughter rates have escalated.

“Milk production from the Big 7 export regions is anticipated to grow by 0.7% year-on-year in 2023, following 2022’s decline of 0.9%,” says Mary Ledman, global sector strategist for dairy at Rabobank. “Rabobank downgraded its 2023 forecast from last quarter’s estimate of 1%. This slower growth is attributed to increased culling in the U.S. and weather-related production challenges in New Zealand, Brazil and Argentina.”

In the United States, Rabobank forecasts milk production will grow by 1.1% in 2023, down from its fourth-quarter 2022 estimate. A critical wild card in the growth rate will be cow numbers in the coming months, the report says, noting farmer sentiment has recently shifted the herd management strategy, with lower milk prices spurring farmers to cull unprofitable animals.

Dairy market price uncertainty remains across global regions and dairy products, the report notes. A little more milk and a little less demand have contributed to weaker dairy commodity prices in the first quarter of 2023. However, stock levels in the key exporting regions are not burdensome. Cheese and butter prices have performed the best, while skim and whole milk powder markets have yet to find sound footing.

Consumers are part of the story. In a complex macroeconomic environment, with core services inflation remaining strong, there are increased signs of a slowdown in household consumption, which is likely to continue deteriorating over the coming months.

“Consumers haven’t left the dairy aisle,” says Ledman, “but they are looking for value.”

In the United States, while cheese demand is expected to persist, additional available milk will cap the upside through most of this year, Rabobank says. Weaker nonfat dry milk and butter prices will remove the premium that Class IV milk experienced in much of 2022.

“Prices will remain lower in near-term months, but upside is expected in the second half of the year,” the report says.

Meanwhile, lower year-on-year global cheese, milk powder and whey prices are expected to support exports, the report notes. Still, much depends on internal Chinese policies and broader demand resilience to support dairy product prices in 2023.

Global dairy trade in 2022 was better than expected, despite China’s retreat, the report says. Exports to key importers including Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, Algeria and South Korea, among others, surpassed 2021 levels.

“Through November 2022, trade in total dairy product volume was within 1.5% of the previous year, despite about a 20% reduction in China’s imports,” Ledman says.

With China’s reopening, Rabobank forecasts foodservice revenues there to improve by 1% to 2% compared to pre-COVID levels.

“Looking ahead, China’s dairy imports in the first quarter of 2023 are expected to fall short of year-ago levels, with renewed buying interest developing in the second quarter of the year. We expect a mild year-on-year increase in imports in the second half of 2023,” Ledman says.


January U.S. dairy exports up double digits in volume, value

March 10, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. dairy exports in January posted double-digit growth in both volume and value, led by strong sales in core product categories including cheese, nonfat dry milk/skim milk powder (NDM/SMP) and whey, according to the latest export data reported this week by the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC).

Shipments of U.S. dairy products in January totaled 181,676 metric tons (on a milk solids equivalent basis), up 16% from January 2022, USDEC reports. January dairy export value rose 21% over a year earlier to $710.9 million.

Meanwhile, dairy imports also showed significant growth in January, according to the latest data from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. Dairy product imports (BICO-HS10 product group) in January totaled 74,077 metric tons, up 44% from a year earlier, while the value of dairy imports in January was $424.7 million, up 33% from January 2022.

U.S. cheese exports in January totaled 34,015 metric tons, up 16% from January 2022, with particularly strong growth in Latin America, Middle East/North Africa and Japan, USDEC reports.

NDM/SMP exports in January totaled 68,211 metric tons, up 15% from January last year. USDEC notes robust demand in this category from Mexico, where the United States shipped a record 36,520 metric tons of NDM/SMP.

Exports of dry whey products in January totaled 44,516 metric tons, up 12% from a year earlier. High-protein whey products (WPC 80+) rose 14%, while low-protein varieties were up 12%, USDEC reports. China bought more low-protein varieties, while high-protein varieties found buyers in a number of different markets, USDEC adds.

U.S. exports of lactose totaled 38,232 metric tons, up 30%, and milk protein concentrate exports totaled 3,026 metric tons, up 8% from January 2022, USDEC reports. Meanwhile butterfat exports fell 13% to 4,269 metric tons.

For more data and analysis on January dairy exports, visit


January U.S. cheese production rises 3.2% from one year earlier

March 10, 2023

WASHINGTON — U.S. cheese production, excluding cottage cheese, in January totaled 1.209 billion pounds, up 3.2% from January 2022’s 1.172 billion pounds, and up 1.2% from December’s 1.195 billion pounds, according to data released last week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). (All figures are rounded. Please see CMN’s Dairy Production chart.)

Italian-type cheese production in January totaled 501.4 million pounds, down 0.4% from January 2022. Production of Mozzarella, the largest component of Italian-type cheese production, totaled 394.7 million pounds in January, down less than half a percent from a year earlier.

American-type cheese production in January totaled 501.0 million pounds, up 6.2% from January 2022. Production of Cheddar, the largest component of American-type cheese, totaled 356.1 million pounds in January, up 7.1% from January 2022.

Wisconsin was the leading cheese-producing state with 295.9 million pounds produced in January, up 3.2% from January 2022. California produced the second most cheese in January at 204.0 million pounds, down 2.3% from a year earlier.

U.S. production of butter totaled 201.4 million pounds in January, up 3.8% from January 2022 and up 7.3% from December’s 187.8 million pounds. California led the nation in butter production with 64.8 million pounds in January, up 3.2% from January 2022.


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Today's Cheese Spot Trading
March 28, 2023

Barrels: $1.9500 (-1 1/4)
Blocks: $2.0325 (-6 3/4)

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Cheese Production
U.S. Total Jan.
1.209 bil. lbs.

Milk Production
U.S. Total Feb.
17.675 bil. lbs.

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