Mini Babybel cheese will be produced at the new site
Bel Brands USA has selected Brookings, S.D., as the site for its third U.S. cheese manufacturing plant.
The company announced that it will begin construction this summer of a 170,000-sq.-ft. plant to produce its Mini Babybel cheese. It will invest about $100 million to build the new facility on 48 acres near the I-29 corridor.
The new plant is good news, says Marv Post, chairman of South Dakota Dairy Producers. "With a fourth processor coming to the state, we’ve got to get 15,000 more cows" to meet milk demand, he adds.
Dean Foods, Davisco and Valley Queen Cheese Factory already operate milk processing plants in South Dakota. A dairy cooperative, First District Association, has just expanded its plant in nearby Litchfield, Minn., boosting demand for milk by 1 million pounds a day, Post says.
Available feed and a favorable environment for permitting have helped increase South Dakota milk production in recent years. The state produced about 1.87 billion pounds of milk in 2011, up significantly from 1.5 billion pounds of milk in 2006, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Likewise, the state’s dairy herd grew from 81,000 cows in 2006 to 90,000 head in 2011. It will need to grow another 15% to fill the Bel Brands plant.
"The robust South Dakota dairy industry and its hardworking Midwestern values make Brookings an ideal location for our new plant," says Lance Chambers, president and CEO of Bel Brands USA. "This new plant is essential to expanding our production capacity to meet the growing demand for our Mini Babybel cheeses."
Bel Brands has more than doubled in size over the past four years. Three of its brands—Mini Babybel, The Laughing Cow and Boursin—have fueled much of the growth.
The new plant will have about 200 employees initially, then ramp up its hiring as it begins production. It should reach peak employment within three years after it opens in 2013, says Al Heuton of the Brookings Economic Development Corporation.
"The impact of this project goes beyond the creation of up to 400 jobs," says Gov. Dennis Daugaard. "It goes beyond the estimated annual $500 million economic impact once the plant is fully operational. And it goes beyond the opportunity for our dairy operations to expand both capacity and market share. Having an internationally respected company like Bel Brands as our newest corporate citizen tells the world that South Dakota is open and ready for business from anywhere around the globe."
Bel Brands USA, based in Chicago, is a subsidiary of Paris-based Fromageries Bel. It has two other U.S. production facilities, in Leitchfield, Ky., and Little Chute, Wis., to manufacture and market The Laughing Cow cheese wedges, Mini Babybel snacking cheese, and other natural and gourmet cheese spreads.