Dairy Dialog podcast 83: Borden Dairy, Lactalis US Yogurt, Stilton Cheese Makers Association, Collaborative

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: borden dairy, borden, Lactalis, coronavirus, COVID-19, Cheese, Dfa, Stilton cheese, Usda

On the podcast this week, we have four guests, with coronavirus being the central theme.

We chatted to Borden CEO, Tony Sarsam; Kyle Thygesen, director of milk sourcing for Lactalis US Yogurt; Robin Skailes, chairman of the Stilton Cheese Makers Association and director of Cropwell Bishop Creamery; and Meiky Tollman, newly-appointed CEO of The Collaborative.

We also have our weekly look at the global dairy markets with Liam Fenton, from INTL FCStone.

Borden Dairy awarded USDA contract to provide 700m servings of dairy products for families in need

Borden, a US dairy company founded in 1857, has been awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) largest contract through its new Farmers to Families Food Box Program as part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program (CFAP).

The contract will enable Borden to supply 700m servings of fresh fluid milk for free to qualifying 501(c)3 organizations from Friday, May 15.

"Borden applauds the USDA for taking this monumental step to ensure that Americans have convenient access to nutrition during this difficult time in our nation's history. This USDA contract allows Borden to exponentially grow our coronavirus relief efforts that are already under way,"​ said Borden CEO Tony Sarsam.

"The 3,300 people of Borden are incredibly proud to further support our communities and eager to begin fulfilling more donation requests immediately."

Through the CFAP, the USDA is purchasing and distributing up to $3bn of agricultural products, including fresh produce, dairy and meat, to those in need.

Borden will supply milk to consumers in the Southeast, Southwest and Midwest regions, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Non-profit organizations interested in receiving a production donation from Borden should email qbangvbaf@obeqraqnvel.pbz​.

Vermont dairy farmers, dairy producers and VT Community Foundation collaborate to Donate to Vermont Foodbank

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets has coordinated an effort to recover raw milk from being disposed while creating a new, temporary food supply for the Vermont Foodbank. 

In collaboration with the Vermont Community Foundation, $60,000 has been made available to purchase milk for the benefit of Vermonters. Vermont's dairy industry, like all sectors, has been challenged by COVID-19 but is considered essential to Vermonters' food supply.

Joining in this effort is Dairy Farmers of America (DFA), Commonwealth Dairy, LLC, producer of Green Mountain Creamery yogurt, and HP Hood. 

DFA family farms will be providing the milk to Green Mountain Creamery and HP Hood. The milk will be processed by these Vermont dairy producers for a donation of 42,000 cups of yogurt and more than 11,500 gallons of 2% milk to the Vermont Foodbank.

The donation will serve hundreds of food bank clients over the course of the coming weeks, providing dairy products to Vermont communities in need while preventing valuable food waste. New England Dairy also provided support to bring these businesses together.

“Dairy is a huge part of our rural working landscape and economy—it is also a critical piece of 'who we are' as a state,"​ says Dan Smith, president and CEO of The Vermont Community Foundation.

"To be able to respond to a need for milk distribution and help feed Vermonters who are struggling are exactly the type of reasons we created the VT COVID-19 Response Fund, and we're thrilled to work with such stand-up organizations."

Beginning last week, product will be produced on a weekly basis and donated to the Vermont Foodbank in amounts 1,152 gallons of milk for 10 weeks and 3,500 cases of yogurt throughout the month of May, helping the Vermont Foodbank to serve thousands of clients.

The Vermont Foodbank, which serves more than 153,000 individuals each year, has seen an increase of up to 100% in demand since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are pleased to be a part of this initiative to get nutritious dairy products to Vermont families during these difficult times,"​ said Kiersten Bourgeois, manager, communications and industry affairs for DFA.

"Dairy farmers are also being challenged by disruptions as a result of COVID-19 and this initiative is a step in the right direction to supporting many parts of our society."

"The coronavirus pandemic has led to a drastic increase in the number of people in need of help accessing food,"​ says Vermont Foodbank CEO, John Sayles.

"When people are laid off or losing work hours with businesses shut down, their food budgets are hit hard. Meeting the increasing need is an immense task, and we wouldn't stand a chance if not for creative efforts like this one that connect the resources available with the people who need them."

"The support from the state of Vermont and DFA has been crucial in allowing our team to efficiently process a surplus of milk supply to provide yogurt to our communities​ in the area," said Esteve Torrens, CEO Lactalis US Yogurt, owner of owner of Commonwealth Dairy, LLC.

"With dairy farmers across the country struggling to redistribute their product, this collaboration is a win-win to curb unnecessary food waste and serve those in need."

"We are proud to be working with DFA to support Vermont families in need,"​ said Lynne Bohan, VP of Government Relations and Public Affairs at HP Hood.

"These unprecedented times have created new challenges that require creative solutions. We're glad that we're able to help solve a problem while giving back to our local community."

Stilton cheese suffering through pandemic

Consumers in the UK are being urged to buy Stilton cheese as sales have declined by up to 30% since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

The Stilton Cheese Makers Association (SCMA), which represents the UK’s Stilton producers, says its figures show the drop is a result of the closure of the country’s hospitality and events industry, farmers markets and export markets also being in lockdown.

The trade body is urging consumers to buy Stilton and other British cheeses to support the industry and prevent producers going out of business.

The reduction in sales is also having an impact on British dairy farms.  Stilton cheesemakers use milk from at least 70 farms across Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, many of which are fifth-generation dairy farmers.

Stilton is the UK’s most popular blue cheese, which was first written about by Daniel Defoe in the early 18th century and is the only cheese in the UK with a certificated trademark to protect its British heritage.  It was the first British cheese to be awarded protected designation of origin status (PDO).

The SCMA said it is concerned that the current situation will discourage the next generation of cheesemakers and that some producers could go out of business as the food service industry remains locked down and contracts. They are also exploring alternative distribution channels such as mail order where this is feasible, to get Stilton to consumers.

The SCMA is calling on British consumers to buy Stilton rather than continental blue cheese, and said it is as versatile as any blue cheese from France or Italy.

The organization added that the cheese can also be used as an ingredient in a variety of recipes.

Robin Skailes, chairman of the SCMA and director of Cropwell Bishop Creamery, said, “Like many British food producers, Stilton sales have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope that the British public will support us by buying Stilton instead of imported blue cheeses which, in turn, will support British dairy farmers.”

Collaborative rebranding in US

The Coconut Collaborative, recently underwent a rebrand to become The Collaborative, where it will continue to sell its plant-based yogurt-alternative products in retail outlets including Sprouts, Fresh Thyme, H-E-B, among others, as well as online.

Founded in 2014 in London, UK, the company is now among the top ten plant-based yogurt brands in the US.

The rebrand includes the expansion of the brand’s product line from six to 18 SKUs.

DairyReporter spoke with Meiky Tollman, newly-appointed CEO of The Coconut Collaborative, regarding the upcoming rebrand, the proprietary process of creating their dairy-free products and the opportunities ahead.

INTL FCStone market report

Dr Peter Meehan, senior commodity analyst at INTL FCStone, also provided an update on the global dairy markets.

"Dairy markets continued to trend higher in recent weeks with both physical/spot quotations and futures markets seeing decent gains despite some strong milk production numbers and mixed export data,” Meehan said.

He said the European butter quotation moved up by almost 5% over the last two weeks (May 6 and 13) making it four weeks of gains on the bounce, in which time the average butter price moved up by 6.5%.

SMP has been a little mixed over the last couple of weeks, but has generally trended higher as well, he added.

“Overall, the European SMP quotation is up 4.2% since mid-April, moving higher over three of the last four weeks. European dairy futures markets meanwhile have moved sharply higher over the last two weeks. EEX butter’s May-20 to Dec-20 strip increased by 14% on average since the start of May while EEX SMP’s May-20 to Dec-20 contracts are up 11.5% on average over the same period.”

Meehan said the latest European dairy export data for March goes some way towards explaining butter’s price strength.

The EU-28 exported almost 21,000 tonnes of butter out of the EU in March, up 83% y/y and a new record for the month. Year to date butter exports are now 75% ahead of the same period last year.

Ireland was the second biggest butter exporter in March, accounting for 19% of the total, up 35% on the volume exported in March 2019.

Ireland remains the leading European exporter of butter for the first quarter of 2020, accounting for 21% of the EU’s Q1 volume, up 48% y/y.

Meehan added, “European cheese exports were also pretty strong in March, up 10% y/y leaving cheese exports for the year to date 11% ahead of last year. Exports of SMP on the other hand remained under pressure, falling 27% behind March 2019 while Q1 2020 exports are down 24% on last year.

“SMP exports bound for seven of the top eight export destinations were down on last year in March, including SMP exports to China which fell by 7% y/y. A sharp increase in SMP destined for Algeria (+164% y/y for the month) who were historically one of the leading destinations for European SMP but dropped off somewhat recently, helped offset some of this negativity. Infant milk formula (IMF) exports were also down overall in March (-2.5% y/y). Ireland was the EU’s second biggest IMF exporter in March accounting for 17% of the monthly total, unchanged on last year.”

This week’s GDT auction saw its first move higher in three weeks and second gain in eight, Meehan said, as the overall index increased by 1.0% for an average price of $2,907 with mixed movements across both milk powders and fats.

SMP was the primary driver behind the increase as its index gained 6.7% while WMP, which accounted for the largest volume of product offered on the platform, was a little softer, down 0.5%. Fats meanwhile also saw contrasting moves with the AMF index up 2.7% while the butter index was down 1.9%.

“As mentioned above, the latest data showing milk collection numbers for the five main global dairy exporting regions (EU-28, the US, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina) combined remained strong in March, up 1.6% y/y posting a new record for the month,”​ Meehan concluded.

“EU-28 milk collections were up 1.1% for the month with Germany (+0.5%); France (+0.6%); the Netherlands (+3.0%); Poland (+1.9%) and Ireland (+2.1%) all driving production for the month higher. There are signs of April’s collections pulling back a bit however, with Germany and France looking set to post negative numbers; the UK also continuing behind last year and the Netherlands posting a more moderate 1.6% y/y increase for the month."

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