Continental Dairy Facilities LLC
After many years in the dairy industry, two business partners decided it was time for a change. “In 2009 Mark Boytim and I were hired by Continental Dairy Products Inc. [CDPI], a milk marketing cooperative in Coopersville, Mich., for our background in project development and plant design on the West Coast,” recalls Steve Cooper, COO and general manager of now-named Continental Dairy Facilities LLC (CDF). “The cooperative wanted to start their own operation and they purchased a former General Motors fuel-injector 270,000-square-foot plant on 130 acres.”
Starting From Square One
As a result, CS Facilities was born. “From January 2009 to June 2010, we were working with the city, state and the banks to build the business,” shares Steve. “Initially, we didn’t have much. We had to develop all of our business policies and procedures and hire people. We basically built the company from the ground-up. We finally broke ground on the plant in June 2010.”
Shortly after commissioning, CS Facilities was renamed as its current designation, and Steve and Mark split their expertise between two companies. “I took over CDF and Mark tackled Select Services, which is a business development and engineering company,” Steve explains.
Steve remembers March 25, 2012, like it was yesterday; the day CDF processed its first load of milk in the new plant. “It was definitely a risk to get the company up and running, but Mark and I saw an opportunity for a new angle,” explains Steve. “It was a challenge, because we had to start up the company, design the plant, build the plant and get it all operational.”
CDF is now the operating company of the entire Coopersville site and is also responsible for supporting sister companies on-site. “Today, we support this entire region, balancing milk for other cooperatives throughout the state,” reveals Steve. “When other regional cooperatives have a surplus of milk, they send it to us and we process it here. We’ve signed long-term agreements to do so.”
Global Distribution Due to Core Management
Steve explains CDF’s niche as a commodity producer. “You won’t see our name on the grocery store shelf anywhere, because we produce a base-food ingredient,” he says. “We’re taking a perishable product and turning it into something with longer shelf life.”
Though not a common practice, the team has CDF’s niche down to a science. “We process the raw product and produce nonfat dry milk, cream and condensed milk, which we sell to food ingredient and consumer food companies,” continues Steve. “We started out with just domestic sales, but we’ve expanded in the global market.”
The company now ships to Mexico, China, Vietnam and Algeria. “Until the end of the year our entire nonfat dry milk stock is sold out to overseas customers,” reveals Steve. “We’ve set aside 10 million pounds of powder for domestic sales.”
Steve goes on to note that when CDF is running at full capacity, the company can process 4 million pounds of milk per day into 36,000 gallons of cream per day and approximately 300,000 pounds of milk powder. “We package in bulk; the smallest packaging we do is a 50-pound bag,” he elaborates.
It is evident that Steve and the team have made an impression on the industry. CDF partners with Gavilon, an agricultural marketing and distributing company, which sells the bulk product to manufactures of yogurt, ice cream, cream cheese and whipping cream.
“We’re also the first U.S. supplier of dry milk for Ferrero Roche, a world-class producer of chocolates and other confections,” adds Steve. “Our partnership with Gavilon has brought us some big-name clients. We have cream and skim milk going to major brands you probably have in your refrigerator.”
Steve adds that CDF’s sister company is building a new plant on-site. “Fair Life is the maker of a milk-based, all-natural protein drink called Core Power,” he explains. “Coca-Cola is going to carry the product line and distribute it.”
Though there are many essentials to achieving success, according to Steve, a solid management team has allowed CDF to take off in such a short period of time. “Right now we have about 67 employees and we’ve hired some of them locally in Michigan, but I brought a group of core management from a California dairy company,” he explains. “I brought a handful of key people with me when we decided to start CDF, because our combined experience in the dairy industry is pushing 80 to 100 years.”
It is evident that Steve believes in his team. “These people have really helped build this company,” he says proudly. “We’ve only been open for one-and-a-half years and we’re already projecting to hit the $240 million mark in revenue for 2013.”
With over 40 years in the dairy industry and a trusted team, Steve and Mark have grown CDF into a notable industry player. Continental Dairy Facilities LLC has hit the ground running, and the opportunity for growth is endless.