Swiss Valley Farms Cooperative, Davenport, Iowa, announced an acquisition as well as a joint venture manufacturing company.


Swiss Valley said it purchasedFaribault Dairy Co., Inc., Faribault, Minn. The sale includes the ownership of Faribault's Blue cheese manufacturing facility as well as Faribault's line of branded cheeses, the most popular of which is Amablu, officials said. Amablu, along with its premium version, Amablu St. Pete's Select, is a cave-aged Blue cheese with a strong retail presence in the U.S.

"This acquisition marks a significant step in our efforts to grow in the Blue cheese category," said Don Boelens, Swiss Valley Farms CEO.

Boelens said the deal "will provide Swiss Valley with yet another safe and secure market for its members' milk supply while simultaneously increasing Blue cheese manufacturing capacity." Boelens added that the Faribault facility will allow for an immediate increase in production and serve as an excellent companion operation to Swiss Valley's other Blue cheese plant in Mindoro, Wis.

The sale brings together the history, talent and resources of two of America's most experienced blue cheesemakers.

"It promises to be a good marriage," said Jeff Jirik, one of the owners of Faribault Dairy Co. Jirik, who will take on his new role as vice president, Blue Cheese Division, said he believes becoming part of the Swiss Valley Farms family is the best way to continue the legacy of the Amablu brand, known as America's First Blue Cheese.

"This is great for the Faribault community, our employees and our long-term stability," said Jirik, noting all former employees will be retained.

New joint venture business

Swiss Valley Farms andEmmi-Roth Kase USA, Monroe, Wis., said they formedWhite Hill Cheese Co.,LLC, a joint venture to manufacture cheese in Shullsburg, Wis. The Shullsburg site has been owned by Swiss Valley Farms since 2005 and consists of a 24,000-square-foot cheese manufacturing plant, a 50,000-square-foot warehouse, and a waste-water treatment facility. Officials said the joint venture will allow the two entities to increase production of Baby Swiss, No-Salt-Added Swiss and other varieties.

"We are very excited about this partnership because it will allow us to respond to growing consumer demand for Swiss cheeses," said Swiss Valley CEO Don Boelens.

Jim Natzke, Vice President of Operations for Emmi-Roth Kase USA, agreed.

"This new joint venture allows us to dedicate an entire plant to Swiss cheese production. It also will allow us to more fully utilize our Monroe cheese factory to produce Gruyere and other specialties," Natzke said.

Officials noted that the site also provides additional storage capacity of these cheeses. Capital improvements at the site are underway, and cheese production is expected to begin in February, 2011. The new plant is expected to employ about 30 people.

Emmi-Roth Kase USA is a subsidiary of Emmi Group, Lucerne, Switzerland.