Sunday, December 16, 2018
 Darigold's Sunnyside Plant Set to Produce Nonfat Dry Milk Powder Following $90 Million Expansion  

When it opened 25 years ago, Darigold’s Sunnyside plant produced nonfat powdered milk. Over time, powdered milk was set aside as production of cheddar, Gouda and other types of cheeses increased. Come spring, the plant at 400 Alexander Road will again start making nonfat dry milk powder as part of a $90 million, 30,000-square-foot expansion.


But this is a different powdered milk than what it manufactured more than two decades ago. It will be a higher-grade product for use by makers of nutritional products, including nutrition shakes for an aging population and baby formula.

Demand for such items is growing, especially in developing countries, said Dermot Carey, Darigold’s executive vice president of ingredients and global business development. The Sunnyside plant is “stepping up its game in that category,” he said.

About 60 percent of powdered milk is exported to other countries, where it is reconstituted for different foods. But like any export, the product is vulnerable to worldwide economic changes.

The increased strength of the dollar has made U.S. milk products more expensive abroad compared with other dairy-producing countries such as New Zealand, said Shannon Neibergs, an extension economist and associate professor for the School of Economic Sciences at Washington State University.

Offering a higher-grade powdered milk opens Darigold to more product categories and can improve its domestic and international market share, he said. “It’s going to expand their market opportunities and provide them a competitive advantage worldwide,” Neibergs said.

The baby formula market is huge and ripe for growth. The baby food and formula business is estimated at $30 billion, with much of the sales coming from Asian countries, including China. Latin American and African countries also are seeing robust sales growth.

While the North American market hasn’t shown the rapid growth of other regions, it still accounted for about 21 percent of formula sales in 2014.

A higher grade of powdered milk comes through asserting a high level of control in the process, Carey said. The Sunnyside plant, among several things, provides airflow controls and restricts employee traffic to ensure greater care in producing and handling the product.

Darigold will spend several months getting product approval from customers before supplying the high-care milk powder to them, Carey said.

As a result, the Sunnyside facility will produce different grades of nonfat milk powder at first, with a long-term goal of eventually focusing on high-care milk powder, he said. The facility has the potential to make 100 million pounds of milk powder a year.
When the expansion is complete this spring, Darigold will be able to accept more milk from local cooperative members: The plant’s milk capacity will increase from 5 million to 8.5 million pounds of milk per day.

Yakima Valley dairy growers who are part of the Darigold cooperative will no longer have to truck their milk to other Darigold facilities throughout the Northwest.

In turn, additional capacity at those other plants in the state will open up for nearby cooperative members, said Jay Gordon, an Elma-based dairy farmer and policy director for the Washington State Dairy Federation.

As Darigold increases production of high-care milk powder, that could influence the dairy cows that farmers use. “You (may) see more emphasis on cows that can produce milk solids, because the liquids are immaterial,” he said. Gordon said it’s too early to predict what impact this new milk powder market may have on the bottom line. “We hope we get a little more and get reward for good quality,” he said.


Source: Yakima Herald-Republic

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