Get Adobe Flash player

Farmer-Owned Co-op Land O’Lakes, Inc. Acquires Vermont Creamery

Vermont Creamery Co-Founders Bob Reese and Allison Hooper and Land O’Lakes, Inc. President and CEO Chris Policinski announced today that their businesses have joined forces. Vermont Creamery will become an independently operated subsidiary of Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes. It will continue to produce its award-winning fresh and aged goat cheeses, cultured butter and fresh dairy at the creamery in Websterville, Vermont.

“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,” said co-Founder Allison Hooper. “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.”

“We purchased Vermont Creamery and welcome them to the Land O’Lakes family because we love their brand and would like to help bring it to even more people,” said Chris Policinski, Land O’Lakes President and CEO. “We share a value-added, branded approach to marketing our products, a meaningful respect for our customers and deeply rooted rural values.”

Hooper and Reese, who founded the business in 1984, say Land O’Lakes is the ideal new owner. A farmer-owned food and agricultural cooperative, Land O’Lakes has been in operation for more than 95 years. Widely known for its iconic butter brand, it is a diverse business that also includes Purina Animal Nutrition and WinField United. At its core, Land O’Lakes is driven by agricultural products that return value to farmers and fulfill its purpose of feeding human progress.

“Vermont Creamery’s heritage mirrors our own here at Land O’Lakes—a company founded by people who care about bringing the highest quality products from farm to fork,” said Beth Ford, Land O’Lakes group Executive Vice President and COO. “We are excited about the culture of product innovation they have built in addition to the category itself and the opportunities for even more expansion.”

“After years of thoughtful planning and a rigorous selection process, we are confident that we have found the best steward of our business, values and people in Land O’Lakes. We are both respected dairy brands with deep connections to farmers and an unyielding commitment to quality and innovation. We look forward to this opportunity to tell our story more broadly and increase access to our high-quality dairy products,” co-Founder Bob Reese added.

Reese and Hooper will serve as trusted advisors and brand ambassadors for the business. President Adeline Druart and the leadership team will remain in place as will all employees of the business. Ayers Brook Goat Dairy is not included in the transaction. The Hooper family will retain ownership of the farm, which will continue to serve as a key supplier to the creamery and catalyst for the growth of the goat dairy industry in Vermont. The terms of the acquisition will not be disclosed.

Adeline Druart, President of Vermont Creamery remarked, “Bob and Allison have been such incredible entrepreneurs building Vermont Creamery’s success and mentoring the team on their vision and values for the business. Partnering with Land O’Lakes adds the next key ingredients for our growth: additional resources and dairy expertise. This transaction positions Vermont Creamery for continued success in the future.”

Founded at a time when Americans rarely ate goat cheese, Vermont Creamery has grown over nearly 35 years to be a premiere producer of fresh and aged goat cheese, crème fraîche and cultured butter. With hundreds of awards and burgeoning national distribution, Vermont Creamery is respected as a pioneer of the artisan cheesemaking movement in America. In 2014, Vermont Creamery was the second cheesemaker in the world to earn B Corp certification and will maintain this certification and commitment to tits community, employees and environment under new ownership.

Jasper Hill Farm’s Soft Cheese Line Sweeps U.S. Cheese Championship

Jasper Hill cheeses have won multiple ribbons at the 2017 US Championship Cheese Contest, a biennial event that took place at Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers) in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This event is the largest cheese competition in the US, drawing entries from across the industry.

The competition was steep this year, with a record 2,303 entries of cheese, butter and yogurt, submitted by cheesemakers from 33 states, for a combined weight of 37,000 pounds. Wisconsin had the most entries by state, but Vermont was in the top five (alongside New York, California and Idaho). Forty eight judges oversaw the 101 categories.

In the Smear Ripened Soft Cheese category, the top four winners were Jasper Hill originals or Jasper Hill collaborations. Jasper Hill also took home a best of class award in the Brie & Camembert category as well as a best of class in Open Class: Soft Ripened Cheese.

For Smear Ripened Soft Cheese, the results were:

BEST OF CLASS: Willoughby, Cellars at Jasper Hill, with a score of 99.70
2nd AWARD: Greensward, Murray’s Cheese & Jasper Hill, with a score of 99.65
3rd AWARD: Oma, von Trapp Farmstead Cheese & Cellars at Jasper Hill, with a score of 99.60
4th PLACE: Winnimere, Cellars at Jasper Hill, with a score of 99.40.

For Brie & Camembert, the results were:

BEST OF CLASS: Moses Sleeper, Cellars at Jasper Hill, with a score of 99.40. The Moses Sleeper also made the list for Top 20 Finalists.

For Open Class: Soft Ripened Cheese, the results were:

BEST OF CLASS: Harbison, Cellars at Jasper Hill, with a score of 99.75

More about the winning cheeses

Moses Sleeper is an approachable and nuanced brie-style cheese. Beneath its thin, bloomy rind lies a gooey, milky core showing a complex array of flavors at peak ripeness: cauliflower, crème fraîche, and toasted nuts. The cheese’s historic namesake, Moses Sleeper, and his compatriot, Constant Bliss, were Revolutionary War scouts killed while defending a blockhouse along the Northeast Kingdom’s legendary Bayley Hazen Military Road.

Winnimere is a take on Jura Mountain classics like Vacherin Mont d’Or or Fösterkäse. In keeping with this tradition, this decadent cheese is made only during winter months when Jasper Hill’s herd of Ayrshire cows are enjoying a rich ration of dry hay. Young cheeses are wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree’s flexible inner bark layer, harvested from Jasper Hill Farm’s woodlands. During aging, the cheese is washed in a cultured salt brine to help even rind development. At peak ripeness, this cheese is spoonably soft and tastes of bacon, sweet cream, and spruce.

Oma is an American original, made by Sebastian von Trapp on his family’s dairy farm in Waitsfield, Vermont. An approachable washed-rind, tomme-style cheese, Oma is made from the unpasteurized, organic milk of the von Trapp’s primarily Jersey breed cows. Oma balances pungent and sweet flavors with aromas of roasted nuts, cured meat and cultured butter. The paste is soft, almost pudding-like, but never runny. The thin, orange rind, often overlaid with white flora, is an earthy foil to the richness of the paste.

Harbison is named for Anne Harbison, affectionately known as the grandmother of Greensboro. Harbison is a soft-ripened cheese with a rustic, bloomy rind. Young cheeses are wrapped in strips of spruce cambium, the tree’s inner bark layer, harvested from the woodlands of Jasper Hill. The spoonable texture begins to develop in the Jasper Hill vaults, though the paste continues to soften on the way to market. Harbison is woodsy and sweet, balanced with lemon, mustard, and vegetal flavors.

Greensward is made by Jasper Hill Creamery, using a Harbison-based recipe. Fresh cheeses are then shipped to the caves of Murray’s Cheese where they are ripened and packaged for sale.

Steve Millard, Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Operations for Murray’s Cheese, has been driving this collaborative effort since the cheese’s inception. “I have been truly blessed by the opportunity to visit Jasper Hill every couple months and reconnect with my friends to the north,” he said. “Our collaboration with Jasper Hill on Greensward started as a special project for 11 Madison [restaurant] and has grown into an award-winning cheese that is sold in our stores nationwide. In Greensward we have the perfect match of superb cheesemaking coupled with impassioned affinage, both born of a continuous desire to achieve and repeat perfection.”

All of Jasper Hill’s award winning cheeses can be purchased where fine cheeses are sold, at Jasper Hill’s retail counter within the newly constructed Boston Public Market, or from Jasper Hill Farm’s online store. Greensward is only available at select Murray’s Cheese locations.

Sunset Foods Announces Lake Forest Remodel

Sunset Foods is remodeling its Lake Forest, Illinois, location. The remodel demonstrates Sunset’s dedication to providing the Lake Forest community with an extraordinary shopping experience.

“We’re always seeking to innovate and improve,” says John Cortesi, Sunset Foods’ President and CEO. “Coupled with Sunset’s tradition of exemplary customer service, this remodel will allow Sunset to create a shopping environment that truly stands out… we’re thrilled to continue to invest in this location and the larger Lake Forest community.”

‘Clean, fun-to-shop stores’ are a key part of Sunset’s mission statement. Each element of the remodel was carefully conceived to enhance the entire shopping experience. Not only will the remodel broaden Sunset’s selection of fresh, local products, it will also expand in-store dining options and emphasize one-of-a-kind offerings. These include:

  • New hot and cold food bars for quick, quality snacking and meals
  • A “just juiced” and fresh smoothie station
  • A cheese island featuring fresh-cut, premium cheeses
  • A smokehouse program that prepares smoked-to-order meats on-site
  • A gourmet sandwich station
  • A wine and craft beer bar
  • A fresh sushi bar
  • An in-store floral shop for custom designs and arrangements

As a convenience to customers, the store will remain open during the remodel, which is slated to begin in early April of 2017. Sunset recognizes that remodels can be challenging. The Sunset team promises to do everything possible to make this a seamless transition.

About Sunset Foods

Sunset Foods is a privately owned neighborhood supermarket dedicated to making grocery shopping a pleasurable experience by providing the finest customer service possible and by offering an outstanding selection (of food, liquor, floral arrangements, and more) at competitive prices. From its modest beginnings in 1937, Sunset has expanded considerably and now employs approximately 900 employees at its stores in Highland Park, Lake Forest, Libertyville, Long Grove and Northbrook. Sunset is committed to giving back to the communities it serves. In addition to exceptional service and a wide variety of foods—including gourmet, ethnic, specialty, and organic items—Sunset also offers its customers a selection of cooking classes and demonstrations, free nutrition store tours, and many other great events.

Gourmet News

Follow me on Twitter