PepsiCo, Muller agree to close upstate NY yogurt plant

AP News
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Posted: Dec 10, 2015 6:47 PM

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — PepsiCo Inc. and German dairy giant Theo Muller Group ended production Thursday at a western New York yogurt plant that opened with much fanfare and state money in 2013, saying it didn't meet expectations in a competitive and dynamic marketplace.

National milk marketing cooperative Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to purchase the Muller Quaker Dairy in Batavia, co-op spokeswoman Monica Massey said Thursday. She said the cooperative is exploring several milk handling and manufacturing options for the plant.

The PepsiCo spokesman said about 64 of the plant's 170 jobs are expected to be cut and transition assistance will be offered. He said the others are expected to be retained by the dairy cooperative.

The $208 million yogurt plant was opened in the spring of 2013 with about $14 million in state tax credits as a key player in the yogurt boom touted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the state's first "yogurt summit" in 2012.

New York has been the top U.S. yogurt producer for several years because of the booming Greek yogurt sector. Top players in the state are Chobani, Fage, and until Thursday, Muller.

"We are immensely appreciative of the support we've received over the years from the community, our customers and the consumers who purchased our products," PepsiCo said in a statement. "We are also pleased to know that DFA, the nation's leading milk marketing cooperative, with nearly 1,400 member farms in New York alone, intends to continue to invest in the community and further expand their production and agricultural presence in the state."

Muller yogurt has been a popular brand in Europe for more than a century. Muller products including dessert-inspired flavors like Raspberry Brownie Supreme and Dulce de Leche Delight will disappear from U.S. shelves after current stocks are sold, the PepsiCo spokesman said.