U.S., Canadian dairy co-ops make purchases

Dairy cooperatives announced acquisitions, with Canada's Gay Lea Foods adding Salerno and U.S.-based Dairy Farmers of America purchasing Oakhurst.

On each side of the border, dairy cooperatives announced acquisitions, with Canada's Gay Lea Foods adding Salerno Dairy and U.S.-based Dairy Farmers of America purchasing Oakhurst.

Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd. announced that an agreement has been reached, effective Feb. 1, to acquire Salerno Dairy. Salerno, a family-owned company in Hamilton, Ont., has manufactured specialty Italian cheese for more than 50 years.

Salerno Dairy manufactures an extensive selection of traditional Italian cheeses. Its repertoire of specialty products includes hard, soft, semi-soft and shredded cheese and cheese blends under the brands Salerno and Gos & Gris.

"This acquisition will allow Gay Lea to establish relationships with new customers and to build on existing partnerships with new offerings and opportunities," Andrew MacGillivray, president and CEO of Gay Lea Foods, said. "This acquisition holds great promise for the years ahead."

A cheese producer since 1962, Salerno Dairy employs 185 people among the three locations.

Gay Lea Foods, founded in 1958, is Ontario's largest dairy cooperative with 1,200 members and 650 employees.

Meanwhile, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) announced that it has acquired Oakhurst, which will become a wholly owned subsidiary of DFA and will continue to operate independently. The Bennett family, which has owned Oakhurst since 1921, and the existing management team will continue to manage the company's day-to-day operations. John Bennett and Tom Brigham will continue in their role as co-presidents.

According to Oakhurst chairman of the board Bill Bennett, "For more than 90 years and three generations, my family has worked hard to build a strong local brand that Maine families trust. We are pleased to entrust the farm families of Dairy Farmers of America to continue our commitment."

All 200 employees at the company will retain their positions. Oakhurst will remain committed to its pledge not to use artificial growth hormone in its milk and will continue to source its milk from the 70 independent Maine farmers that currently supply the company. Processing and bottling will continue at the company's Portland, Maine location.

DFA operates as a milk marketing cooperative and a dairy processor with strategic investments in plants, products and partnerships that bring value to its farmer owners. In the past few years, the cooperative has increased its investments in the fluid milk and ice cream category by purchasing other regional dairy processing facilities and brands including Guida's Dairy in Connecticut, Kemps in Minnesota and Dairy Maid Dairy in Maryland. These local brands continue to run and function as separate, independent businesses.

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