Capacity ramps up for cheese, milk, ingredients across U.S.

Editor’s note: Plants in Progress is a special segment spotlighting new facilities and expansion in the U.S. dairy sector. As the industry works to meet new demand, growth and expansion are inevitable. Here, we provide a glimpse into new cheese and dairy plants and expansions across the country — from initial groundbreaking to full operation, and everything in between.

By Alyssa Mitchell

MADISON, Wis. — Across North America, production of cheese, innovative beverages and dairy ingredients is ramping up as new facilities, plant expansions and equipment upgrades boost output to meet worldwide demand for U.S. dairy products.

“We are experiencing one of the most exciting periods of investment and expansion in the history of dairy processing,” Michael Dykes, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, said in a recent guest column for Cheese Market News.

“Although USDA is forecasting slightly lower milk production growth through 2030, production is increasing and milk is changing to meet consumer demands for more fat and protein to make the products people love, like cheese, yogurt and butter,” Dykes added.

That growth certainly is reflected in our latest installment of Plants in Progress. In this highly anticipated special section, you’ll read about innovations in dairy beverages to create protein-forward and shelf-stable products as well as specialty ingredient development to help cheesemakers boost flavor, texture and other attributes in their products.

Not to mention, capacity for cheese itself — from Italian to American and Hispanic styles — is growing as consumers continue to see cheese as a go-to for their favorite snack, a cheese board for entertaining and even an indulgence for dessert.

Beyond consumer demand, many of the companies featured also are investing in state-of-the-art facilities for their employees and expanding their workforces to support local communities.

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

• Artisanal Caves LLC, Utica, New York

Artisanal Caves LLC, the operating unit of Artisanal Brands and owner of the Artisanal Premium Cheese brand, is undergoing a significant overhaul of its 18,000-square-foot cheese fulfillment center and bakery in Utica, New York to build the Cheese Cave and the Wine Cellar & Barrel Room. The Cheese Cave will offer an extensive variety of domestic and international artisan cheeses aged to peak ripeness. Adjacent will be a place to enjoy a cheese-centric menu. The bakery is being upgraded with seating, along with a Cookie Bar, drive-up window and a wider offering of products.

Artisanal Executive Chairman Daniel Dowe says drawings and permits are completed, and the company is closing on financing to be able to start construction soon.

The company notes its central New York location is the first of several regional shipping hubs that Artisanal intends to open to substantially reduce the distance and shipping costs of online orders from

Dowe says the new Artisanal Cave format will be the inverse of the once-popular Manhattan restaurant, the Artisanal Fromagerie & Bistro, which had a small cheese cave and a large eatery. The next chapter for Artisanal will be a large walk-in cheese aging area in cave-like conditions with precise temperature and humidity controls. Visitors will be able to explore and learn more about cheese and pairings along with their culinary experiences.

• Bates Family Farm, Cedar Bluff, Virginia

Bates Family Farm LLC recently announced it will create 12 new jobs and invest nearly $1 million to relocate its manufacturing facility to a 40,000-square-foot building owned by Russell County, Virginia, to meet growing consumer demand for its skin care products. The new space will allow for the development of new products, additional product capacity and warehouse space. Additionally, Bates Family Farm will be constructing a new creamery to produce food products, bottled goat milk and artisan cheeses for wholesale and retail distribution.

Funding for the expansion was given in part through an Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund through the state of Virginia. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Russell County and the Russell County Industrial Development authority to secure the project for the commonwealth. Gov. Glenn Youngkin also approved a $70,000 grant from the AFID Fund, which Russell County will match with local funds.

“This AFID grant award and the support we have received from Russell County are critical factors in our decision to move forward with this project. We are honored to grow our business in the county we call home and be part of Virginia’s agricultural community,” says Joseph Bates, CEO of Bates Family Farm.

• Bongards Creameries, Perham, Minnesota

Bongards Creameries in September began an expansion project announced last year at its plant in Perham, Minnesota.

The expansion/modernization of the Perham plant will consist of a new 70,000-square-foot cheese cooler, new cheese vats — which started up this fall — a new whey pasteurizer that came online in August, a new permeate evaporator that started up in January, a new milk intake to be completed in July and a new deproteinized whey dryer/permeate packaging system/permeate warehouse, which will be completed in early 2025. Additionally, all of the equipment that is not being replaced will be expanded by 30% to handle the additional volume the company will be running through the plant once the project is complete.

Total area of the upgrades mentioned above is approximately 150,000 square feet, which will more than double the facility’s capacity, says Daryl Larson, president and CEO of Bongards Creameries. Total project cost is estimated at $125 million.

Earlier this month, National New Markets Fund LLC (NNMF), an affiliate of Los Angeles-based SDS Capital Group, announced it has invested $17.5 million of its New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation the project. The NNMF investment utilizes capital from the NMTC program, created by Congress in 2000 and administered by the U.S. Treasury Department. Bongards received the NNMF allocation as part of a complex $81 million New Markets Tax Credit financing package. Dudley Ventures is the investor purchasing the NMTCs from each of the participating NMTC allocatees: NNMF, Mascoma Community Development, Waveland Community Development, Rural Development Partners and DV Community Investment.

“With this latest investment, we will be able to continue supporting the growth of our business, allow our current farmer-owners to expand and allow us to bring on new members,” Larson says, noting the company plans to add 22 full-time positions once the project is complete.

Once complete, the Perham facility will process 5.5 million pounds of milk per day, 588,000 pounds of cheese per day and 350,000 pounds of dried whey products per day.

Photo courtesy of Dairy State Cheese
RAMPING UP — Progress continues on a project at Dairy State Cheese to convert manufacturing to 40-pound block Parmesan. Cooler space has been racked to handle pallets instead of 640-pound blocks, company officials note.

• Dairy State Cheese LLC, Rudolph, Wisconsin

Dairy State Cheese currently is undergoing a project to convert manufacturing to 40-pound block Parmesan. The company, which is owned by Cheese Merchants, has fully commissioned the 40-pound block line and will stop producing 640-pound blocks by April 30. It will continue to make American styles for the foreseeable future, notes Mark Dahlstrom, president of Dairy State Cheese.

He adds rather than increase the size of the facility, the project is upgrading the equipment, resulting in increased efficiencies. Dairy State also expanded its employee entrance area and added new amenities.
Cooler space has been racked to handle pallets instead of 640-pound blocks, and a milk separator is being installed and will begin commissioning mid-April, Dahlstrom says. The company will begin installation of a 50-pound whey protein concentrate 80% packaging line in May.

Phase two of the project will commission in early 2025, when Dairy State plans to install eight new vats, four additional towers and two additional salt belts.

“That equipment is sized to allow us to double plant capacity, but without adding new walls,” Dahlstrom says.

Upon completion, which is slated for the second quarter of 2025, the plant will be able to process 3 million pounds of milk each day into cheese production. Finished product production will vary by cheese type.

• Danone North America, Jacksonville, Florida

Danone North America last year 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.

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 goals by reducing overall water consumption, decreasing carbon emissions and accelerating the company’s goal of packaging circularity.

Construction has commenced on the expansion, which will create up to 40 new full-time jobs with competitive wages and benefits, and is expected to be complete by the end of this year, says Marissa Lundstrom, director of operations communications, Danone North America.

• Darigold Inc., Pasco, Washington

Darigold Inc. is constructing 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.

Chris Arnold, vice president and head of communication for Darigold, says building construction continues to move forward, and the first pieces of processing equipment are being installed inside the building. More than 70% of process equipment has been fabricated, and utility equipment start-up will begin in the coming months.

“We plan to start hiring the first wave of plant process employees this summer,” he says.

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.

• Emmi Roth USA, Stoughton, Wisconsin

Emmi Roth’s new 134,000-square-foot headquarters and cheese conversion facility in Stoughton, Wisconsin, was complete late last year. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the new location Nov. 29.

Emmi Roth leadership, Emmi Group representatives, and state and local officials were in attendance, including Tim Omer, president of Emmi Roth, Jonas Leu, executive vice president of the Americas for Emmi Group, and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. The ceremony was followed by a reception featuring Emmi Roth cup, bag, wedge, shred and crumble cheeses that will be processed in the new facility.

The facility is the biggest sustainability project in Emmi Roth’s history. It is entirely electric to help the company meet its Net Zero by 2050 goals.

The Stoughton location adds to existing Emmi Roth locations in Monroe, Platteville and Seymour, Wisconsin.

• FlavorSum, Kalamazoo, Michigan

FlavorSum, a North American flavor producer, recently completed construction and opened a 35,000-square-foot expansion at its Kalamazoo, Michigan, facility. The increased footprint enhances the site’s emulsion, extraction and warehousing capacity and includes investment in process automation to increase efficiency, quality and safety.

The site also has an Innovation Center pilot plant featuring new ultra high temperature and high temperature short time pasteurization processing capabilities to support FlavorSum’s Dairy Center of Excellence.

In addition to Innovation Centers in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and Mississauga, Ontario, FlavorSum is opening a 10,000-square-foot Innovation Center in Marlton, New Jersey. The center has an expanded flavor creation lab and analytical and application spaces to facilitate collaborative sessions with a technical team that has expertise in food and beverage flavor solutions. The New Jersey Innovation Center also will house the Beverage Center of Excellence that features pilot capabilities for carbonation, canning, tunnel pasteurization and hot filling.

An official ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony will be held in the coming weeks.

Photo by Alyssa Mitchell/Cheese Market News
INNOVATION AND COLLABORATION — Foremost Farms USA’s new headquarters in Middleton, Wisconsin, features an open-concept office model spread across two floors for increased collaboration and transparency.

• Foremost Farms USA, Middleton, Wisconsin

Employees of Foremost Farms USA, a world-class producer of cheese, butter and dairy ingredients supplied to national and international markets, are settling in nicely to the cooperative’s new
headquarters, located in the Wisconsin Trade Center building in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Foremost Farms began the transition from its former headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin, in late 2022. Employees made the transition to the new Middleton location in October 2022, and the company continued to build out the space through completion in 2023.

Declan Roche, senior vice president and chief commercial officer, Foremost Farms, says the new location offers the company more growth and innovation opportunities as well as access to a larger talent pool in the Madison, Wisconsin, area, and proximity to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Dairy Research.

A highlight of the new space is a state-of-the-art Culinary Center where customers can meet one on one with Foremost Farms experts to test products and explore further innovation.

“When you make commodity products, you’re not always aware of what the end uses are,” Roche notes, “but that’s what this center is all about — building customer relationships and understanding their wants and needs.”

In addition to a welcoming front kitchen area for meeting, testing and tasting products, the space includes an extensive lab with expanded freezer space and ability for future expansion.

Another highlight of the new headquarters is a revamped, open-concept office model for increased collaboration and transparency, Roche notes. Spread across two floors with an open staircase connecting the levels, employees have the ability to easily engage with one another in their workspaces.

Each floor features meeting rooms of various sizes so employees can break into teams. Executives are located throughout the office space, embedded with their teams, inviting more transparency and communication.

• GEA, Janesville, Wisconsin

Operations began earlier this year at GEA’s new 86,000-square-foot fabrication, repair, logistics and training facility in Janesville, Wisconsin. Representing an investment of $20 million to meet demand from the company’s growing Midwest customer base, the facility has production capabilities to finalize separator, decanter, valve and pump assembly. The new site has a strong emphasis on sustainability, with environmentally friendly measures including solar panels, water reuse systems and a state-of-the-art building management system.

“Opening the new Janesville facility as anticipated in December 2023 represents a significant step toward meeting our customers where they operate,” says Azam Owaisi, CEO, GEA North America. “It highlights GEA’s commitment to product quality and service excellence. We are excited to become a vibrant employer and partner for the Janesville community.”

Meanwhile, GEA also is investing another $20 million in a state-of-the-art technology center focused on alternative proteins in Janesville. Construction is expected to begin in the coming months with an anticipated opening in 2025.

The new facility will specialize in piloting microbial, cell-based and plant-based food technologies and aims to bridge the current gap in the market for industrial-scale production of alternative proteins. The technology center will help gear the company up to support the industry’s anticipated growth, as indicated in a GEA survey last year, which found that chefs expect a quarter of meals to incorporate alternative proteins by 2040.

• Great Lakes Cheese Co., Franklinville, New York

Great Lakes Cheese Co. is nearing completion on construction of a new cheese manufacturing and packaging plant in Franklinville, New York. With a capital investment exceeding $700 million, the project is both the largest infrastructure investment in the company’s history and the largest privately funded project in New York state, officials say. Hiring is well underway with nearly 100 new employees already hired, with the total workforce reaching 500 when complete.

The new plant will replace the existing facility in Cuba, New York, upon completion. Although the Cuba facility is planned to cease operations, the company still is evaluating with state and local officials possible future uses for the site, company officials say.

The Franklinville packaging operation commenced production in February and will be fully operational in 2025, officials add.

Photo courtesy of High Desert Milk
DUAL PASTEURIZERS— Pictured above are dual pasteurizers capable of processing 320,000 pounds of product per hour, part of an expansion project underway at High Desert Milk to add a cream cheese production line.

• High Desert Milk, Burley, Idaho

High Desert Milk is upgrading its facility in Burley, Idaho, with a new cream cheese production line, adding about 17,000 square feet of new production floor space and a starting capacity of 20 million pounds of cream cheese per year. High Desert Milk has the ability to ramp up production to 80 million pounds through future equipment additions, company officials say.

“Cream cheese allows for the use of our excess cream and at the same time diversifies our product base,” says Shawn Burton, chief operating officer, High Desert Milk. “In July 2022, we started to take bids for the cream cheese addition, which we started to build later that year.”

He adds that the facility is mostly built and High Desert Milk began commissioning the process lines in February.

The company will be producing 30-pound commercial-size cream cheese blocks, as well as a 3-pound loaf and 8-ounce brick sizes, and has purchased equipment to add a consumer-size tub within the year. The market for these lines primarily will be private label or co-manufactured products for clients, some of whom currently partner with High Desert Milk, Burton says.

• Hilmar Cheese Co., Dodge City, Kansas

Hilmar Cheese Co. progresses toward the opening of its new cheese and whey protein site in Dodge City, Kansas. Production of 40-pound blocks of cheese and a wide range of high-protein whey ingredients will begin later this year, says Denise Skidmore, director of education and public relations at Hilmar.

The building is enclosed, and equipment installation continues. Hilmar provided a thank you lunch for more than 500 contractors earlier this month. The site leadership team continues to hire additional team members with job fairs and community activities planned for the summer.

• HP Hood, Batavia, New York

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) board of directors approved a final resolution for HP Hood’s $120 million proposed expansion project at its meeting earlier this month. The 32,500-square-foot expansion project will create 48 new jobs while retaining 455 full-time employees, adding to the 1,000-plus professionals in the food processing industry and cluster with more than 1.2 million square feet of food and beverage facilities at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

HP Hood’s expansion, expected to break ground next month, accommodates its automatic storage and retrieval system refrigerated warehouse. The project also will include new batching and processing systems and other upgrades that will allow the company to increase capacity and begin a new production line.

HP Hood’s investment is projected to result in a local economic impact of $49.87 million in wages and tax revenue. The GCEDC approved sales tax exemptions are estimated at $4.52 million, a property tax abatement is estimated at $549,705 based on an incremental increase in assessed value, and a mortgage tax exemption is estimated at $536,000, bringing the value of the proposed financial agreements to approximately $5.6 million. For every $1 of public benefit, HP Hood is investing $16 into the local economy.

• Leprino Foods Co., Lubbock, Texas

Leprino Foods continues construction on its new manufacturing facility in Lubbock, Texas, which it broke ground on in 2022. Hiring will be a priority this year, as the company anticipates opening Phase I in early 2025, with the capability of processing 4 billion pounds of milk each day at the new plant. At full capacity, the 850,000-square-foot plant will employ about 600 people.

“We’ll continue to build upon our heritage of continuous innovation and industry leadership,” says Mike Durkin, president and CEO, Leprino Foods.

Photo courtesy of Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association
EXPANDED FOOTPRINT— Maola Local Dairies, owned by Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association, has purchased a dairy processing plant in Philadelphia previously owned by HP Hood.

• Maola Local Dairies, Philadelphia

Maola Local Dairies, owned by Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association (MDVA), has purchased a dairy processing plant in Philadelphia previously owned by HP Hood. The acquisition, which was brokered by Pittsburgh-based Harry Davis & Company, will generate new opportunities to bring sustainable milk products into Pennsylvania. The company is planning to expand capacity and upgrade the plant, with details to follow in the coming months.

Maola Philadelphia is an ultra-pasteurized product plant focused on quality, customer service and sustainability together with customers, employees and family-owned farms. The plant produces regular and flavored milks, creams of various fat levels, half and half, eggnog and ice cream mixes. The plant, which has more than 170 employees, offers packaging in gable top pint, quart and half-gallon containers, portion control cups and 2.5-gallon bags. It adds to MDVA’s existing processing capacity in High Point, North Carolina; Landover, and Laurel, Maryland; and Newport News and Strasburg, Virginia.

“We are dedicated to the existing team at Maola Philadelphia as we work to grow capacity at the plant while we produce high-quality dairy products with the customer service our valued customers expect and deserve,” says Jay Bryant, CEO, MDVA.

• Nelson-Jameson, Jerome, Idaho, and Marshfield, Wisconsin

Nelson-Jameson earlier this year announced that its current distribution operation in Twin Falls, Idaho, is relocating to its new 45,000-square-foot strategic distribution center in Jerome, Idaho. The company broke ground on the Jerome location in September 2022 as part of a strategic plan to open its most technologically advanced facility yet. Jerome is one of five Nelson-Jameson distribution centers in the United States to support its core operation of offering a broad range of food processing products and services that help companies uphold the highest standards of safety and compliance.

“Nelson-Jameson’s commitment to the growth of the food processing industry in the Pacific Northwest is exemplified by our company’s expansion in Idaho’s Magic Valley. Our substantial investment in the Jerome distribution center underscores our dedication to the region while prioritizing food quality and safety for our customers,” says Mike Rindy, president of Nelson-Jameson.

The Jerome facility includes approximately 1.5 million cubic feet of combined storage, office space, refrigerated and frozen storage areas, and a service and maintenance area. The company designed the center to align with its forward-thinking environmental goals, including efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and improve sustainability for the food processing industry overall. Construction of the facility includes architecturally embedded, energy-saving features, including insulated concrete tilt wall panels, all LED lighting, occupancy sensors for lighting, high-efficiency HVAC systems, electronically controlled warehouse ventilation and energy-efficient warehouse storage systems.

Peterson Brothers from Twin Falls was the general contractor for the Jerome distribution center, and
Excel Engineering from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, served as the efficiency design team.

A grand opening event is planned for the near future.

Meanwhile, Nelson-Jameson late last year announced the launch of its newly expanded Service & Repair Workshop and Training Center in Marshfield, Wisconsin. The company has long maintained an “education-first” philosophy and currently offers equipment repair and service training to suppliers and customers. The new facility more than doubles its existing space to a total of 1,450 square feet and includes both in-person and virtual training capabilities.

The facility has been designed for future service growth as well as educational opportunities. Nelson-Jameson will host its own training workshops on topics such as valve, pump and plate heat exchanger maintenance, tech training and safety training, and will develop custom workshops for individual customer needs. The company also will open the Service Training Center to suppliers to conduct partner-supported training workshops within the expanded Service & Repair area. The new space includes upgraded virtual technology features to facilitate connections between customers, suppliers and service teams across the nation.

• Orbis, Urbana, Ohio, and Greenville, Texas

Orbis Corp., an international leader in reusable packaging, late last year announced it has expanded its manufacturing facility in Urbana, Ohio. The expansion adds 30% more space for the production of Orbis totes and pallets and allows the company to add more presses and tools, increase capacity and shorten lead times.

“A more sustainable supply chain starts with reuse. Our customers rely on us to help them move their goods in the supply chain more sustainably with reusable packaging,” says Norm Kukuk, president for Orbis. “This expansion gives us the flexibility and capacity to enhance production of our packaging products. The people of our Urbana plant are dedicated, committed and focused on serving the customer. This expansion gives them the infrastructure to make that possible.”

Reusable packaging products produced at the plant are used in many industries, including automotive, food, beverage and consumer packaged goods, the company notes.

“This new facility is the culmination of a 13-year-long effort to revitalize the former site and bolster the community,” says Rich Ebert, director of the Champaign Economic Partnership, which works with Orbis. “As a community, we’re thrilled that Orbis Corp. has chosen to expand its presence here in Urbana. Its dedication to providing reusable packaging helps meet the sustainability demands of today’s supply chain.”

Meanwhile, Orbis also recently announced it has entered into a lease-to-own agreement for manufacturing space in Greenville, Texas, with EPM Partners of New York. The agreement includes 420,000 square feet of manufacturing space that will be used to produce reusable pallets, totes and bulk containers. Improvements and infrastructure will be required to prepare the space for Orbis’ manufacturing activities. Orbis also will enter a lease agreement with EPM Partners for 240,000 square feet of warehousing space in the same building.

Orbis says it expects to add more than 190 employees within two years of the lease commencement in order to support operations at the new plant. The plant, which is located about 50 miles northeast of Dallas, is projected to begin some operations by the end of 2024.

Photo courtesy of Oregon State University Extension
REVAMP AND REUSE — Oregon State University Extension is revamping a former school theater into a new dairy pilot plant and creamery. Project completion is slated for spring 2025.

• Oregon State University Extension, Corvallis, Oregon

Oregon State University (OSU) Extension is in the process of a renovation of a former school theater that is being revamped to accommodate a dairy pilot plant and creamery. Design is complete, and the dairy is working with contractors on scaling up automation to enable smart manufacturing in the future, says Lisbeth Goddik, OSU Dairy Processing Extension specialist.

“We’d like the pilot plant to be a showcase for the next generation in manufacturing,” she says.

Total square footage of the creamery itself is estimated to be 4,500 square feet, she adds, noting there also is a planned quality control lab not included in that estimate, as well as a teaching lab for students.
Some of the existing theater space that was not utilized will become the new home for the OSU winery, Goddik notes.

The project is expected to be complete in spring 2025.

• Panhandle Products, Dumas, Texas

Panhandle Products LLC, a locally owned cheese and whey manufacturing plant located in the Texas Panhandle, began production of American-style 40- and 640-pound cheese blocks in mid-2023. The facility is on track for a planned production ramp up this year, officials say.

Established in 2021, Panhandle Products processes milk daily, producing American-style cheese and whey protein powders. The company’s Mild Cheddar earned a second-place award at the recent World Championship Cheese Contest.

“We will stay steadfast to a safe and positive work environment, dedicated to our employees and our family. We are looking forward to establishing and sustaining a state-of-the-art facility,” officials say.

• 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.

The company is putting the finishing touches on the first phase of the 50,000-square-foot project, which largely was completed last fall, says Ann Renard, co-owner of Renard’s Cheese. The exact-weight cut and wrap is in full operation, and new vats and presses, including a trial vat, are installed, she says. A new wastewater holding system also is in place.

Phase 2 of the expansion will be complete in early June, while Phase 3 is expected to begin in late fall to early spring of 2025, dependent on lead times for supplies, with an expected build time of 12 to 14 months, Renard says. 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

Saputo has begun operations at its recently converted state-of-the-art goat cheese manufacturing facility in Reedsburg, Wisconsin. The company will transition production from its recently closed facility in Lancaster, Wisconsin, to Reedsburg, along with that of its facility in Belmont, Wisconsin, the closure of which was previously announced.

Construction also 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 is investing 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.

Photo courtesy of Suntado LLC
STARTING UP — Suntado LLC is ramping up operations at its new plant in Burley, Idaho. The multimillion-dollar facility will process approximately 400,000 to 1 million pounds of local milk per day into a combination of organic, conventional and A2 milk products.

• Suntado LLC, Burley, Idaho

Suntado LLC last year broke ground on a new state-of-the-art shelf-stable milk and alternative beverage manufacturing facility in Burley, Idaho. The multimillion-dollar facility will process approximately 400,000 pounds to 1 million pounds of local milk per day into a combination of organic, conventional and A2 milk products.

“The plant has gone through its testing phase and is preparing to send commercialized product at the end of April through June on all of the filling lines. Startup has been good,” says Tory Nichols, Suntado business development leader.

He adds that Phase 2 planning officially will begin in June or July of this year.

“The plant is starting up with a first shift, and by August/September, it will be a fully operational plant with all shifts,” Nichols says.

He adds that the plant has its certificate of occupancy and USDA/ISDA plant number, and is finalizing its third-party food safety audit.

Nichols is part of the leadership team reporting directly to Suntado LLC owners Jesus Hurtado and Dirk Reitsma.

The Suntado facility will specialize in processing Class I and Class II milk. The plant also will serve as a co-packer for an array of products including private label and other recognized brands. The product lineup is diverse, ranging from sports, children and adult nutrition to innovative coffee products and alternative beverages. A notable feature of these products will be their packaging, ensuring both extended-shelf-life and aseptic conditions.

Utah-based Big-D Construction is the design-builder for the new facility and has been assisting Suntado in preconstruction and engineering efforts since November 2021.

• Tillamook County Creamery Association, Decatur, Illinois

Tillamook County Creamery Association (TCCA) last year announced plans to open an ice cream manufacturing facility in Decatur, Illinois, in late 2024.

The Decatur facility is TCCA’s first owned and operated manufacturing facility outside of Oregon and is the only facility solely dedicated to ice cream production. It previously was owned by Prairie Farms, which also used it for ice cream production until it was closed in early 2022.

TCCA has spent the past year 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. It will manufacture Tillamook family-size (48 ounce) ice cream as well as Tillamook foodservice (3 gallon) ice cream.

Photo courtesy of University of Wisconsin-River Falls
BACK IN BUSINESS — Officials say the first batches of cheese have been made in recent weeks at the new dairy pilot plant at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

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

A grand opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting was held Oct. 20 for the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF). The remodeled 6,000-square-foot, $9 million plant in the Agricultural Science Building features brand new equipment and will serve as a hub for students and dairy industry employees to engage in high-tech, hands-on learning.
UWRF officials say the first batches of cheese have been made in recent weeks.

Work began 11 years ago to begin building a new dairy pilot plant to replace the longtime plant at UW-River Falls that had become outdated. The old plant ceased operations in 2018 because of its antiquated equipment.

Former dairy pilot plant manager Michelle Farner worked with agriculture industry leaders and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, among others, to come up with funding to build the new plant, renamed the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence after $1 million in donations from the Greenwood, Wisconsin, business helped make the plant a reality.

Late last year, UWRF announced that Farner was leaving the institution and named Rueben Nilsson the new dairy pilot plant manager. Nilsson has spent nearly two decades in the dairy industry. He has worked in numerous jobs at several dairy plants and has overseen operations at them.

“I wanted to return to the vats, to have a direct hand in helping create what gets produced,” Nilsson says. “I really do enjoy the ins and outs of creating, of working on details and being able to find ways to make better-tasting products.”

• Walmart, Valdosta, Georgia, and Robinson, Texas

Walmart late last year announced groundbreaking on a new milk processing facility in Valdosta, Georgia, that will create nearly 400 Walmart jobs in the Valdosta community. It will bolster Walmart’s capacity to meet the demand for high-quality milk while making its supply chain more resilient and building more transparency around sourcing.

Using ingredients sourced from local farmers, the new facility will process and bottle a variety of milk options including gallon, half gallon, whole, 2%, 1%, skim and 1% chocolate milk for the Walmart Great Value and Sam’s Club Member’s Mark brands. The products from the facility will serve more than 750 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs in the Southeast.

Meanwhile, this month Walmart also announced the planned opening of another owned and operated milk processing facility in Robinson, Texas. The new facility is slated to open in 2026 and will create nearly 400 new jobs in the Robinson community.

The new facility will allow Walmart to meet the growing demand from customers for high-quality milk, while providing transparency about where its products are sourced and making the supply chain more resilient. The facility will process and bottle a variety of milk options, including gallon, half gallon, whole, 2%, 1%, skim and 1% chocolate milk for the Walmart Great Value and Sam’s Club Member’s Mark brands. The products from the facility will serve more than 750 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs throughout the South including Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and parts of Arkansas and Mississippi.


CMN article search

© 2024 Cheese Market News • Quarne Publishing, LLC • Legal InformationOnline Privacy PolicyTerms and Conditions
Cheese Market News • Business/Advertising Office: P.O. Box 628254 • Middleton, WI 53562 • 608/831-6002
Cheese Market News • Editorial Office: 5315 Wall Street, Suite 100 • Madison, WI 53718 • 608/288-9090