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Ag: Milk Co-ops Go Retail / California’s Good Wine Grape Crop

Milk Co-ops Add Retail Focus

Both Land O Lakes and California Dairies Inc., each with a big Tulare County presence, are adding new retail/consumer oriented products to their mix to diversify the way they earn income. Visalia-based CDI has added a new spreadable butter line at its Tipton plant last month. Spreadable butter now represents 10% of all butter sales and the category is growing by 20% a year says Irv Holmes of Challenge Butter,a division of CDI.The  spreadable butter mixed with olive oil is 50% lower in fat and calories. The Challenge Butter brand overall is growing by 20% a year. At Land O Lake this summer, the company purchased  Kozy Shack Enterprises Inc., a maker of chilled dairy desserts with a plant in Turlock.The addition is new category –  refrigerated deserts – helping LOL to better diversify says co-op member Tom Barcellos.

Challenge Spreadable Butter is mixed with olive oil,cutting fat and calories 50%

Meanwhile, Deans Foods says they are selling Morningstar Foods with a plant in Tulare. Morningstar sells traditional and specialty items, including cultured dairy products, ice cream mixes, coffee creamers, aerosol whipped toppings. No buyer has yet emerged.

Wine Grapes Good Year

The wine grape harvest is winding up and it looks like a good one says Nat DiBuduo president of Allied Grape Growers. DiBuduo estimates the crop at 3.7 million tons compared to to 3.3 million tons in 2011.The 2012 crop is one of the largest in memory. In the past, a big crop might translate into low prices, but not this year. ”I have been here 13 years at Allied Grape Growers and I have never seen a crop as good as this.”He adds that prices are 10 to 25% higher this year ,depending on variety,and quality is good.”This should be a good year for both growers and wineries” says DiBuduo,in a business where they are often pitted against one another.The industry pushed over so many vines a few years ago “that we may be heading for  a shortage in some grapes.” The difference now, he says, is that growers will work to get contracts  before they go out and plant new vines to limit the big problem in the past – overproduction. One problem – increasing imports.

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