“While I cannot mention the name of the company, I can say that it would be an arrangement that would be beneficial for both of our companies as well as allow us to be able to use more of our cows' milk for yogurt production,” Howard said.
Country View is currently only using 20% of its milk for yogurt production, according to Howard.
Owned and operated by Dave and Carolee Rapson, the Mennonite family-run dairy makes yogurt on the farm and distributes yogurt to over 60 stores, nine private colleges, 20 public schools, and corporate dining and other food service applications to six states via its current network of distributors, according to Howard.
This year, Howard said Country View plans on increasing production through partnering with its distributors to target more food service and ingredient application customers in larger markets, such as Chicago and Minneapolis.
“We would also like to launch our yogurt in a large grocery store chain-wide; just waiting for the appropriate opportunity to do so,” he added.
Even though Country View still remains a small regional brand in the upper Midwest, Howard said, it is becoming more well-known year by year in the food service industry.
“Some day we would love to use 100% of milk going into yogurt product, which at this point would require us to grow 500%. We feel we are ready for rapid growth as we have been increasing production 100% to 300% each year over each of the last three years.”
Competition from national brands
Country View’s business faces multiple challenges, according to Howard, including that the dairy is located in a sparsely populated area, so transportation can be difficult.
On top of that, stiff competition from national dairy brands also makes the situation tough for Country View, said Howard.
“Being the smallest guy on the block can be challenging to purchase supplies, ingredients and equipment that we need to produce at our level,” he said. “The companies we need to work with for all the above are also working with those national brands. They expect us to order very large minimum orders on each item.”
In order to solve such difficulty, Country View has partnered with a couple of other small yogurt makers in the Midwest to share purchasing power, said Howard.
Greek yogurt sales continue to increase
Country View’s latest food service size product is vanilla Greek, which is 1% low-fat and is available in sizes from three-pound tubes to 20-pound bags, according to Howard. Meanwhile the company’s most recent retail product is the Aronia blackberry Greek yogurt.
“This is the only Aronia berry yogurt in the US market that we are aware of, and we are sourcing the berries locally and also using them as a natural coloring,” Howard said. “Aronia berries are the new super fruit as they are native to the Midwest, and have three times the antioxidant properties of blueberries.”
Howard believes the US yogurt market is saturated with many new flavors, styles and brands, and it is tough for consumers to make up their minds. In general, he said Greek yogurt has been on the upswing for a few years now, but the shelf space is about squeezing out some smaller, local brands by the large national brands.
“I believe we will continue to see Greek yogurt sales increase, traditional yogurt sales decrease,” he said.