Bel Brands USA selects Brookings site to produce Mini Babybel cheese; state needs ‘15,000 more cows.’
Bel Brands USA has selected Brookings, S.D., as the site for its third U.S. cheese manufacturing plant.
The company announced yesterday it would begin construction this summer of a 170,000-square-foot cheese plant to produce its Mini Babybel cheese. It will invest about $100 million to build the new manufacturing facility on a 48-acre land parcel near the I-29 corridor.
The new plant is good news for the state’s dairy producers, said Marv Post, chairman of the South Dakota Dairy Producers organization.
“It’s an exciting time for us with a fourth processor coming to the state,” said Post, a registered Holstein breeder. With Bel Brands’ new plant, “we’ve got to get 15,000 more cows in the state” to meet milk demand, he added.
Dean Foods, Davisco and Valley Queen Cheese Factory already operate milk processing plants in South Dakota. A dairy cooperative, First District Association, just expanded its plant in nearby Litchfield, Minn., which has boosted demand for milk by some 7 million pounds a day, Post said.
Available feed and a favorable environment for dairy permitting have helped boost South Dakota milk production in recent years, especially along the state’s I-29 corridor. South Dakota produced about 1.87 billion pounds of milk in 2011, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. That’s up significantly from 1.5 billion pounds in 2006. Likewise, the state’s dairy herd grew from 81,000 cows in 2006 to 90,000 head in 2011.
Bel Brands USA has more than doubled in size over the past four years. Three of its key brands -- Mini Babybel, The Laughing Cow and Boursin -- have fueled much of the growth, the company said.
Bel Brands USA is a subsidiary of Paris-based Fromageries Bel and is based in Chicago. It also has two other U.S. production facilities, located in Leitchfield, Ky., and Little Chute, Wis. The company manufactures and markets The Laughing Cow cheese wedges and Mini Babybel snacking cheese, as well Boursin, Merkts, Kaukauna and other natural and gourmet cheese spreads.
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