Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Baton Rouge-based Kleinpeter Farms Dairy is building a distribution center and office on a 3-acre site in the Lafayette Regional Industrial Park on Pont des Mouton Road.
Kleinpeter expanded its product line to the Lafayette area in late 2007. “Acadiana has a wonderful food culture; people there are experts on quality food,” says Jeff Kleinpeter, president of Kleinpeter Farms Dairy. “They have embraced our incorporation of locally produced ingredients in our 28 ice cream flavors, and they want to do business with locally owned companies, which is especially important to keep jobs and money in Louisiana.”

Kleinpeter says construction on the facility will begin in May. This Lafayette location, expected to create five local jobs when it opens, is the latest in a steady expansion the Baton Rouge dairy has undertaken over the past five years. Kleinpeter maintains that even as the dairy industry nationwide was struggling, his company saw consumer demand for locally-produced dairy items increase. Hundreds of Louisiana’s small family owned dairies went out of business, he notes, and the parent company of Borden’s was sold to the Mexican firm Grupo LALA in 2009.

“We saw a need for fresh products with fresh local ingredients,” he says, “and we had help from Louisiana food leaders such as Bruce Foods, Bergeron Pecans and even sugar cane farmers in Acadiana.” Louisiana sugar cane supplies the sugar for all the flavors of Kleinpeter Ice Cream except, of course, those with no added sugar. The addition of ice cream to the Kleinpeter line created the state’s only ice cream plant. “Ice cream sales pushed milk sales,” Kleinpeter says.

The company also is enlarging its ice cream production facility in Baton Rouge, where crews are rushing to meet a May deadline to stay ahead of the summer months. The new storage warehouse is part of an overall physical expansion of the ice cream plant that began last year. The first phase of the project, completed in 2010, added 2,400 square feet to the building housing the ice cream production line at a cost of $250,000. The new warehouse is a $650,000 investment.

Kleinpeter says demand for ice cream is growing throughout the company’s service area — and was even steady during the winter months. He credits particularly strong growth in southwest Louisiana, where ice cream is carried in Independent Associated Grocery Stores, Albertsons, and Fresh Market stores in Lafayette, and Kroger, Albertsons and Market Basket stores in the Lake Charles area.

Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has been a family-owned dairy since 1913. Jeff’s sister, Sue Anne Kleinpeter Cox, is chief financial officer, and father Ben remains a member of the board of directors. — Leslie Turk

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