Wisconsin Cheese Is Investing, Expanding

Wisconsin's Booming Plant Investment

Volume 135, No. 10 Friday,September 3, 2010

A boom in plant investment and news this week of 98 awards at the American Cheese Society competition proves Wisconsin cheese is growing both in quantity and quality. It’s great news for a dairy industry that has struggled through low milk prices to build a growing supply of high-quality, fresh farm milk.

What follows is a detailed look at processing expansions and renovations new or breaking ground in Wisconsin. It’s certainly not a complete list of every dollar being expended to upgrade cheesemaking in America’s Dairyland, but this list hits many highlights. For example:

Maple Leaf Cheese Co-op completed an expansion in 2010, including a larger, more diversified make area, a new brine room and ability to make pre-press style cheeses. The addition includes 2,000 square feet of make area and a new pit brine system. The expansion incorporates numerous energy savings concepts including pre-warming milk using heat from a high efficiency boiler. Energy savings in daily ice production allows for additional ice capacity to cool brine water and whey from cheesemaking.

Mullins Cheese is completing a major expansion of its Marshfield, WI, cheese factory, doubling the plant footprint and increasing its milk processing capacity from 1.2 million to 2.4 million pounds of milk per day. The six-month building project included construction of a new milk intake and new coolers, new vats and block-forming towers as well as a new automated 640-pound block production line and a new wastewater treatment system. The plant produces natural American styles as well as pepper jack, Muenster, Provolone and reduced-fat cheeses. Whey is processed at Mullins flagship plant near Mosinee.

Arla Foods is currently expanding production at its Hollandtown facility to increase production of its Havarti and Blue cheese lines. Arla sales rose 10 percent in 2009 and are up 20 percent in 2010.

BelGioioso Cheese will complete its new 200,000 square foot headquarters and distribution center in Brown county (town of Ledgeview), WI, this fall. This, the eighth cheese facility for BelGioioso, will add 79 jobs to Wisconsin’s workforce and allow for expansion of production capacity at existing plants. This state-of-the-art distribution hub is expected to increase productivity and efficiency for the Italian cheese producer.

Decatur Dairy is nearly doubling its footprint with an 8,500 square foot plant expansion to encompass a new milk intake, cheese brining room, dry storage and packaging space and a new retail store. The expansion will allow the Green county co-op to expand production to better serve cheese customers.

Foremost Farms USA is executing a major expansion at its Mozzarella facility in Appleton. The plant currently has the capacity to produce 65 million pounds of Mozzarella annually for the pizza, foodservice and cheese converter markets and Foremost Farms plans to double the plant’s capacity so it can produce 130 million pounds of Mozzarella annually. In June, Foremost Farms received $45 million in New Markets Tax Credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to expand, upgrade production capacity at its facilities in Richland Center and Appleton.

Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese built a new three bay intake and lab facilities in 2010 at their natural American styles cheese facility in Rudolph, WI. The plant is also installing a new, automated 640-block filling and handling system.

Swiss Valley Farms and Emmi-Roth Kase USA announced a joint venture (White Hill Cheese Co.,) that will revive the 24,000 square foot cheese manufacturing plant in Shullsburg, WI. White Hill Cheese will focus production of Baby Swiss, No-Salt-Added Swiss and other varieties and the 50,0000 square foot cold storage warehouse on site will also allow for additional storage capacity of these cheeses. Capital improvements at the site are underway, and cheese production is expected to begin in February 2011.

Grassland Dairy doubled its milk intake to eight bays in 2010 and is breaking ground on an expansion this fall. Facilities housing new evaporators and dryers will allow Grassland to process current milk intake (4 million pounds) and new milk supplies at its flagship butter and concentrating facility near Greenwood. One system will dry whey protein concentrate, milk protein concentrate and NDM while another system will dry permeates for human grade use. The expansion includes a 20,000 square foot warehouse for finished product. The completion date is November 2011.

Baker Cheese recently completed a major addition, 17,000 square feet of production space including a new cheese make room, cheese brining room and packaging addition. The renovation includes new make vats and additional packaging lines. Baker leadership said the addition will increase daily production capacity with the intent of growing their signature string cheese business.

Montchevre Betin has completed construction of a digester system to handle permeate, wash water and whey from its goat’s milk cheesemaking facility in Belmont, WI. The 500,000 gallon digester will produce 335 kilowatts of electricity per day (at full capacity) and digester effluent will be accepted by the village of Belmont, eliminating wastewater handling issues for the facility.

Meister Cheese Co. is doubling processing capacity at its cheese plant in Muscoda. The new 14,000 square foot expansion will accommodate new specialty cheese production, including its line of “A Triple F” or Animal Friendly Family Farms line, a partnership with Scenic Central Milk Producers cooperative.

Trega Foods has boosted production capacity 15 percent at its cheese facility in Little Chute, with the addition of new cooler capacity and additional production space. The 6,000 square foot addition was completed in August 2010.

Saputo Cheese USA invested $160 million dollars in the Wisconsin dairy industry with their purchase of Alto Dairy cooperative in April of 2008. The Montreal-based cheese maker followed up with increased manufacturing capacity and whey and permeate processing capabilities at the Alto sites. In 2010, Saputo is executing a capital improvement plan at its nine dairy manufacturing facilities in Wisconsin which focuses on investments in employee environment, product safety and quality, sustainability, and operating efficiency.

Taylor Cheese in Weyauwega displayed its remodeled cheese cutting and wrapping operation in August at WCMA’s Dairy Field Day for state and local legislators. The renovation and expansion allows for better work flow and an additional packaging line for Wisconsin natural cheeses.

Zimmerman Cheese completed a state-of-the-art milk intake center and new CIP rooms this spring for their award-winning Muenster cheese production plant in Wiota, WI.

Park Cheese will double the footprint of its cheese cutting and processing center in Fond du Lac. The 16,000 square foot addition will allow the company to expand production, consolidate cheese curing and secure compliance with select global food safety programs.

Lactalis American Group is completing a number of capital projects at both Belmont and Merrill, WI, to improve manufacturing efficiency, reduce product losses, and increase production volume. The company will add a production line in Merrill. The $2.7 million project earned a $57,229 credit under Wisconsin’s Dairy Manufacturing Facility Investment Tax Credit. r

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 828-4550; Fax him at (608) 828-4551; or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakersassn. org


Other John Umhoefer Columns

 Talking Competition
 Being Big Dairy
Upper Midwest Prospects in 2010
Upper Midwest Growth: Perspectives From The Farm
Blue Skies or Bust
Pushing Back Against A Tough 2009
Support Demand, Not Price
Dairy: A Good Bet in a Bad Economy
Wisconsin's Future: Growth
Keeping Sustainability Real
Nose Dive
Dairy Dives into 2009
Consider This...
 Fulls Vats
Implement Make Allowances ASAP
Security Reforms
Spring Forward
A Week of Clarity

What do you think about 
John Umhoefer's Comments?*

Please tell us if you are a
Dairy product manufacturer 
Dairy marketer/importer/exporter
Milk producer
Supplier to manufacturers

*Comments will remain anonymous. 
Cheese Reporter retains the right to publish anonymous comments to continue the discussion of this editorial.  Comments do not necessary reflect those of Cheese Reporter Publishing Co. Inc.