The Morningstar Foods plant in Murray will soon be under new ownership, as Dean Foods Company announced Monday that it has sold Morningstar Foods, LLC to Saputo Inc. According to a press release from Dean Foods, the company has entered into a definitive agreement to sell its Morningstar Foods division to Saputo Inc. for $1.45 billion (U.S.). Morningstar Foods is a leading manufacturer of dairy and non-dairy extended shelf-life and cultured products, including creams and creamers, ice cream mixes, whipping cream, aerosol whipped toppings, iced coffee, half and half, value-added milks, sour cream and cottage cheese. The agreement has been approved by the company’s board of directors. “Morningstar is an attractive business and we believe that it will continue to grow and thrive in Saputo’s portfolio,” Gregg Engles, Chairman of Dean Foods, said in the release. “Today, Morningstar has substantial potential for accelerating growth through new distribution channels and new product categories. I’d like to personally thank the Morningstar team for their contributions to Dean Foods over the past 15 years and wish them well as they move forward under new ownership. By joining Saputo, we believe Morningstar will be well positioned for continuing success and future growth.” According to a press release from Saputo, Saputo is the 12th largest dairy processor in the world, the largest in Canada, the third largest in Argentina and among the top three cheese producers in the U.S. The acquisition of Morningstar will complement the activities of the Saputo Dairy Products Division (USA), and through the acquisition, Saputo will benefit from Morningstar’s national manufacturing and distribution footprint and will optimize coast-to-coast service, the release said. Morningstar has approximately 2,000 employees and operates 10 manufacturing facilities located in nine states. The transaction is expected to expand product offering to customers in the United States and broaden the range of Saputo’s future acquisition opportunities. The combined businesses are expected to have approximately 12,000 employees and 57 manufacturing facilities in five countries. Mark Manning, president of the Murray Calloway County Economic Development Corporation, said Morningstar had been for sale for some time, so he was not surprised that it was acquired by Saputo. “I don’t know a lot about the new company that has bought the Morningstar division, other than to say they have been in the U.S. for quite some time and seem to be a very strong company, and my feelings are that the quality of this plant would mean that it would probably fare quite well under the new ownership,” Manning said. According to company information on the EDC website, www.thinkmurray.com, the Murray facility employs about 250 employees from Murray-Calloway County and surrounding counties. The facility produces and ships 15-17 million pounds per month of extended shelf life food products. At the time the data was collected, the facility produced 429 production items, and re-supplied at least 266 various items to other Dean facilities in order to serve as the Dean Dairy hub in the Southeast, shipping into 28 states. The Murray facility reportedly purchases an average of 1.1 million pounds of locally supplied milk per week, and also utilizes local contractors or businesses whenever possible. The company is supportive of Murray-Calloway Local Relay for Life, American Heart Association, United Way, local charities, and local school and volunteer efforts. The facility reportedly has record low employee turnover, allowing the company an opportunity to gain experience and continuously improve its operations. Manning said the information about the Murray facility was compiled by the EDC from the Dean Foods website some time prior Monday’s announcement, but that it has apparently been removed from the Dean Foods site. Morningstar management in Murray were not authorized to speak to media. A representative with Dean Foods returned a phone call, but said he had no comment to add to the company’s press release. A phone call to Saputo was not returned before deadline Monday.
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