Ontario to host plant for U.S. lactose-free milk maker

A lactose-free milk brand distributed by Coca-Cola will be produced at a new dairy processing plant to be built at Peterborough, Ont. by early 2020.

The facility’s first product will be Fairlife Ultrafiltered Milk, a lactose-free product billed as providing 50 per cent more protein and 50 per cent less sugar than traditional milk.

Canada is to be the first international market for Fairlife, a joint venture between the Coca-Cola Company and U.S. dairy farmer co-operative Select Milk Producers. The Fairlife product line will appear in Canada by the end of this year, the company said.

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Coca-Cola Canada announced Tuesday it has budgeted $85 million for the new facility, which a company spokesperson said will be built adjacent to the company’s Minute Maid juice plant at Peterborough.

The company said it plans to work “closely” with Dairy Farmers of Ontario on the new operation, which is “scheduled to begin operations in the first quarter of 2020,” directly creating 35 jobs.

The new plant is to produce Fairlife milk in fat-free, two per cent (white and chocolate) and whole (3.25 per cent) in 1.5-litre bottles and two per cent (white and chocolate) in 240-mL bottles, for the Canadian market.

A Coca-Cola spokesperson said the company is “still in the early stages of design” on the dairy plant but expects the new facility and the Minute Maid plant to share a warehouse for shipping and “potentially” some existing infrastructure.

The Minute Maid plant makes frozen fruit juice concentrates for the Canadian market, employing about 100 people. No impacts are expected on Minute Maid operations during the dairy plant’s construction, the company said.

“Dairy farmers in Ontario look forward to working with processors, such as Coca-Cola Canada and Fairlife, to bring further innovation to our growing Canadian dairy industry, and are excited at the opportunity Fairlife presents to expand the dairy category and offer more variety to consumers,” DFO CEO Graham Lloyd said in the company’s release.

“Introducing Fairlife to the Canadian market presents a great opportunity to showcase Ontario dairy farmers’ high-quality milk and animal care practices, which pair well with the premium standards and passion for quality Fairlife is known for.”

“The decision to launch Fairlife in Canada was an easy one to make, given the high farming and dairy standards already in place,” Tim Doelman, the jpint venture’s chief operating officer, said Tuesday in a release.

“All of our products start with high-quality, great-tasting fresh milk, which is what Canadian dairy farms are dedicated to as well.”

Shane Grant, president of the Canadian business unit of the Coca-Cola Company, noted in the same release that the company has “launched an unprecedented number of new products into the Canadian market over the last 18 months” including brands such as Gold Peak, Smartwater, Glaceau fruitwater, Vitaminwater, Peace Tea and Powerade Zero, plus smaller package formats.

“Adding Fairlife Ultrafiltered Milk to our portfolio means we can offer Canadians more of what they are looking for — products with less sugar, more functional benefits and more natural ingredients.”

“Dairy farmers are true believers in innovation, which is why we are pleased to hear that a new product will be offered to Canadian consumers soon,” Dairy Farmers of Canada president Pierre Lampron said in a separate statement.

“We are pleased to hear the recognition of these companies to the Canadian model of high standards for quality and animal care as reasons that support their choice to use milk produced on Canadian farms to expand their product offering to Canada.”

Fairlife co-founder Sue McCloskey described the new Peterborough plant as an “exciting project that will lead to producing Fairlife using Canadian milk — from Canadian dairy farmers — and we’re honoured to be working with the Dairy Farmers of Ontario to make all this cool innovation happen.”

The Fairlife joint venture between Select Milk and Coca-Cola began in 2012, with Coca-Cola serving as the distribution partner for Fairlife products.

Sue and Mike McCloskey in 1994 founded Select Milk, which is now billed as the fifth-biggest dairy co-operative in the U.S., with almost 100 members in Texas, New Mexico and the Midwest and a “commitment to milk quality, animal care and environmental sustainability.”

All Fairlife products can all be traced back to the dairies their milk comes from, the company noted. — AGCanada.com Network

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