Meijer buys dairy; Dean's may lose jobs

EVART – Meijer Inc. announced Thursday it’s acquisition of a dairy facility in Holland, raising questions about the future of its current milk provider, Dean Food’s Liberty dairy in Evart.

Approximately 200 employees work at the dairy, which supplies the midwest retailer with juice, cream, milk, eggnog, half and half and fresh whipped cream, according to the company’s website.

“We just recently learned of Meijer’s decision to purchase the Bareman’s facility, and I can’t speculate on any future implications that may have for our plant in Evart,” said Liliana Esposito, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at Dean Foods. “We remain focused on providing all of our customers with the best products and service in the industry, and winning new business to keep our plants productive and efficient.”

Melora Theunick, Evart Local Development Finance Authority director, said the LDFA has extended offers to help the dairy search for additional business.

“We’re disappointed to hear the news and waiting to see what kind of implications this is going to have,” Theunick said.

Many Liberty Dairy employees live and are active in the Evart community. Theunick said the loss of jobs or closure of the plant would hurt the Evart area in many ways.

Dean Foods dairy has been an Evart business for generations. In 1928 it became Liberty Dairy and in 2001 the operation was purchased by Dallas-based company Suiza Dairy but retained its name.

Meijer plans to sell the Purple Cow Creamery brand, named after the ice cream shops inside many Meijer stores and the famous Purple Cow cards frequently handed out by Fred Meijer. The white and chocolate milk will be sold in gallon and half-gallon sizes in the 101 Meijer stores in Michigan.

While it will be several months before the facility begins shipping milk products to Meijer stores, Meijer will assume ownership of the dairy plant operations in Holland on April 1.

“The creation of the Purple Cow Creamery is an important step forward as we continue to expand our manufacturing operations,” said Rick Keyes, executive vice president of supply chain and manufacturing for Meijer Inc. “Producing our own Meijer brand milk allows us to continue to focus on keeping prices low for our customers, while also reducing the number of food miles for a very important product.”