About Tuscan/Lehigh Dairies, Inc.

Dean Foods is the nation's largest milk bottler. The company markets fluid milk, ice cream, cultured dairy products, and beverages (juices, teas, and bottled water) under more than 50 local, regional, and private-label brands, including Dairy Pure, Borden, Pet, Country Fresh, Meadow Gold, and TruMoo, a leading national flavored milk brand. Dean Foods owns and operates a number of smaller regional dairy companies, including Friendly’s, Berkeley Farms, and Garelick Farms. The company distributes dairy products across the US from regional manufacturing facilities.

Operations

About 70% of Dean Foods’ revenue comes from its fluid milk while ice cream products account for about 15%. The rest of the company’s sales come from fresh cream, cultured products, extended shelf-life dairy and other products, and other beverages. The company’s reliance on fluid milk puts it at the mercy of milk prices, consumer demand, and competition. Changes in any of those forces could affect the company’s operations.

The company operates about 60 production facilities around the country and ships most of its products directly to stores in a fleet of refrigerated trucks. It buys milk produced by more than 930,000 cows from some 4,350 farms.

Geographic Reach

Dean Foods rings up 99% of its sales in the US, where it operates manufacturing facilities in 32 states (and distributes across all 50 states). The company’s nationwide manufacturing and distribution capacity could be strengths as it tries to roll out products such as Friendly’s and Mayfield ice creams across bigger regions and countrywide.

Outside of the US, the dairy giant has some operations in Europe.

Sales and Marketing

Dean Foods markets its products through advertising and other promotions, including media, coupons, trade shows, and other promotional activities. The company has significantly increased its advertising spending in the past several years to drive consumer awareness of its national brands.

Dean Foods' customers include food retailers, distributors, foodservice operators, educational institutions (some 33,000 schools), and governmental entities throughout the US. Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries, including Sam's Club, is the company’s largest customer, accounting for about 16% of revenue. The next four biggest customers account for less than 20% of sales.

The company's products are sold primarily on a local or regional basis through local and regional sales forces, although some national customer relationships are coordinated by a centralized corporate sales department.

Financial Performance

Dean Food’s sales have declined for the last six years.

Sales dropped about 5% to about $7.7 billion in 2016 from more than $8 billion in 2015. Dean blamed lower revenue on an abundant supply of milk in the US that cut dairy prices. The company cited a 9% drop in the cost of its main milk supply in 2016 compared to 2015. What’s more, the company reported a 2% reduction in sales volume in 2016 from 2015. The company, however, did get a sales bump of more than 2% from flavored milk as well as an 8% increase in ice cream sales, which was boosted by the Friendly's acquisition.

Dean Foods reported a profit of about $120 million in 2016, a recovery from a loss of $8.5 million 2015. Lower dairy prices meant the company spent less to acquire raw materials (cost of sales fell to about 74% of revenue in 2016 from about 76% in 2015) and it also spent less on distribution because of lower fuel prices. Ongoing corporate initiatives helped reduce costs and improve efficiency.

Net cash provided by operating activities was about $257 million for 2016, down from about $408 million for 2015. The 2016 figure was lower because of decreased raw milk prices coming out of 2015. The company also had a higher incentive-based compensation payout in the first quarter of 2016 compared to 2015.

Strategy

Dean Foods is trying to move into higher margin products such as ice cream to lessen its dependence on low-margin milk products, particularly private-label products. The transition has been interrupted, however, by rising milk prices, declining demand, and looming competition from Wal-Mart, the company’s biggest customer.

Costs for its primary product input, raw milk, jumped about 15% from mid-2016 to mid-2017. Dean absorbed much of the increase rather than pass it along to customers because of oversupply and competitive pressures. The financial impact is considerable, as cost of sales as a percent of revenue has climbed 2.5%, resulting in roughly $50 million less gross profit per quarter.

Another challenge on the horizon is Wal-Mart’s construction of its own dairy processing plant in Indiana. The plant is to supply dairy products to some 600 stores in the Midwest. Wal-Mart will shift an estimated 90 million gallons of production from Dean to the plant in 2018 and 2019, reducing Dean’s annual volume by about 4%. Dean will continue to supply Walmart in other parts of the country.

Dean Foods is responding to these challenges with cost cutting measures, plant closures, and the shift to a more profitable product mix. The company plans to cut expenses by $40 million to $50 million by the end of 2017. While it shutters production plants periodically, it closed nine in 2016 and 2017 and expects to close more in the coming quarters.

With fluid milk volumes declining, Dean Foods believes a switch to more profitable branded products and reducing its large-format private label business will provide higher gross margins. Increased sales of products such as ice cream and cottage cheese is to improve profitability.

Dean Foods’ strengthened its ice cream offerings with the 2016 acquisition of Friendly’s. Friendly’s bolstered Dean Foods’ market position in the Northeast US and provides a platform for nationwide expansion. Dean Foods also is looking to expand the Mayfield Creamery product line in the southern US. Another step to sell higher margin products is Dean’s 50-50 production and distribution partnership with Organic Valley and its line of organic fairy products.

In October 2017, Dean Foods will encounter a debt maturity event, requiring a $142 million payment. Cash on hand is less than $50 million, so the firm is likely to drawn from one or both of its credit facilities, which together total $900 million. Dean Foods currently has $66 million drawn against the facilities. Following a scheduled $65 million maturity in 2020, no other substantial debt payments are required until 2023, when a $700 million note comes due.

Mergers and Acquisitions

In 2016 the company bolstered its ice cream product line up after it acquired Friendly's Ice Cream's retail and manufacturing ice cream business for $155 million in cash. Prior to the acquisition, Friendly's made and distributed a variety of ice cream products; it also operates a restaurant chain in the northeastern US that was not part of the acquisition. The Friendly's brand complements Dean's line-up of ice cream brands, including Mayfield and Dean's Country Fresh.

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Tuscan/Lehigh Dairies, Inc.

110 Manheim Rd
Schuylkill Haven, PA 17972-9705
Phone: 1 (570) 385-1884
Fax: 1 (570) 385-1686

Stats

  • Employer Type: Public
  • Pres: Rachel Gonzalez
  • V Pres-finance: Mark Stinson
  • V Pres: Gregg Tanner
  • Employees: 360

Major Office Locations

  • Schuylkill Haven, PA

Other Locations

  • Harrington, DE
  • Allentown, PA
  • Lansdale, PA