Wisconsin cheese plant among Canada's Saputo $85 million acquisition

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer

Dairy processor giant, Saputo Inc., plans to buy two cheese plants in a bid to expand it's dairy portfolio in the United States.

In this file photo, Raul Galvan, 31, a worker at F&A Dairy Products, Inc., checks the salt level of a provolone cheese serpentine brining system at the cheese producing facility in Las Cruces, N.M. This plant along with a F&A Dairy plant in Dresser, WI, are being acquired by Saputo Inc. for $85 million.

The Canadian-based company announced it's plans to acquire F&A Dairy Products in Dresser, Wisconsin and Las Cruces, New Mexico for $85 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the year.

The company produces a variety of cheeses including specialty blends, mozzarella, provolone, Hispanic cheeses and cheddar, for distribution throughout the U.S. and Mexico. The two plants employ approximately 170 people.

F&A Dairy touts itself as a one-stop source for the pizza and deli industry, according to the company's website. Founded in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1958 by brothers, Frank and Angelo Terranova, founded F&A Cheese Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The enterprising brothers purchased their first manufacturing plant in 1965—Belle Cheese in Amery, Wisconsin. They expanded their operations by purchasing the Indianhead Dairy in Dresser, Wisconsin, renaming it F&A Dairy Products, Inc. Later, they merged Belle Cheese into F&A to form a single company. The company would later purchase the plant in New Mexico.

The purchase price of $85 million on a cash-free and debt-free basis, will be paid in cash from cash on hand and available credit facilities, according to the release.

Company officials said the acquisition of F&A Dairy Products’ activities will add to and complement the activities of Saputo’s Cheese Division (USA).

In an effort to improve efficiency, Saputo announced it would close its cheese plant in Fond du Lac, and move operations to a newly-built blue cheese factory in Almena in western Wisconsin.

The latest deal is among several acquisitions made by Saputo as a means to expand its international footprint. According to the Wisconsin Dairy Plant Directory for 2017-18, Saputo owned nine cheese manufacturing plants in Wisconsin. This includes the latest addition of Montchevre-Betin, Belmont, Wis.

The cheese giant also announced in 2017, that it would close its plant in Fond du Lac in an effort to improve efficiency.  Instead, the company opted to move operations to a newly-built blue cheese factory in Almena in western Wisconsin.