MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Land O' Lakes Inc. has purchased Vermont Creamery, a pioneer in artisanal cheese-making in the U.S. that says it needs a partner to help reach its business potential amid unprecedented growth.
Vermont Creamery will become an independently operated subsidiary of Land O' Lakes, a member-based agricultural cooperative, and will continue to make goat cheese, cultured butter and fresh dairy in Websterville. Co-founders Allison Hooper and Bob Reese said Wednesday that Vermont Creamery is a "a good fit" for the Minnesota-based butter and cheesemaker.
"We have always taken seriously our commitment to our farmers, employees and Vermont's working landscape — these values are at the core of our decision to sell the business," Hooper said. "As we experience unprecedented growth, we need a partner who can bring the resources and expertise necessary to help us realize our vision and the potential of our business."
Chris Policinski, Land O'Lakes president and CEO, said the company would like to bring the brand to even more people.
Hooper and Reese founded Vermont Creamery in 1984. Since then, it has earned over 100 national and international awards and Hooper was among eight pioneer goat cheesemakers around the country inducted into the American Cheese Society Academy of Cheese in 2011 for their contributions to the growth in U.S. goat cheese.
Several other small, high quality U.S. cheesemakers have been purchased recently by bigger companies. Swiss dairy giant Emmi bought Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery in Sebastopol, California, in 2015, and Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, California, in 2016.
"I think really it ultimately allows these smaller companies to subsidize their operations and improve their factories, create more products, purchase more milk, so all of those things are actually, I think, good for the economy," said Thomas Bivins, executive director of the Vermont Cheese Council, which represents about 50 cheesemakers in Vermont.
He said he wasn't concerned about the cheeses' quality being affected.
"What makes Vermont cheese so attractive to larger companies like this is that we have a certain level of quality that's been apparent for quite some time and I think that they want to make a product that's this good," Bivins said.