Dean Foods, the nation's largest milk bottler, has ridden a white wave of dairy industry consolidation. The dairy giant has and continues to grow through acquisitions. Its retail and food service dairy products are sold under more than 50 national, regional, and private-label brands, including Borden, Pet, Country Fresh, and Meadow Gold. In addition, the company manufactures coffee creamers (International Delight), dips, ice cream, butter, cottage cheese, and specialty dairy products (lactose-free and organic milk, soy, coconut, and almond milks, and flavored milks). Dean owns and operates a number of smaller dairy companies, including Horizon Organic, Berkeley Farms, and Garelick Farms.
Dean Foods has shuffled and reshuffled its holdings as it digests and divests various businesses. After combining its Fresh Dairy Direct and Morningstar Foods businesses to form Fresh Dairy Direct-Morningstar and pairing its Dallas-based WhiteWave Foods soymilk business with Alpro (Europe's leading soy-based food and beverage business acquired in 2009) to form WhiteWave-Alpro, in 2011 it separated Fresh Direct and Morningstar and sold a 20% stake in WhiteWave Foods to the public. In 2011 it reported three business segments: Fresh Dairy Direct (74% of sales); WhiteWave-Alpro (16%); and extended-shelf-life creams and creamer business Morningstar (10%).
About a year after separating Fresh Direct and Morningstar, Dean Foods in early 2013 sold its Morningstar Foods division to Canada's #1 dairy processor Saputo for $1.45 billion. Dean Foods expects to realize $887 million from the sale. (Morningstar sells Friendship brand cottage cheese and private label dairy products such as creamers, ice cream mix, and sour cream.
Dean Foods has operations throughout the US, and in Europe (Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the UK). International operations, including Alpro in Europe, accounted for 3% of Dean Foods's net sales in 2011.
Sales & Marketing
Dean Foods markets its products through advertising and other promotions, including media, coupons, trade shows, and other promotional activities. The company spent about $176 million on advertising in 2011, down from nearly $191 million in 2010. Dean's customers include food retailers, distributors, foodservice operators, educational institutions, and governmental entities throughout the US. Wal-Mart and its subsidiaries, including Sam's Club, is Dean Foods's largest customer; accounting for 19% of 2011 sales.
Sales at Dean Foods increased more than 7% in 2011 vs. 2010, driven by price increases that compensated for lower volume sales by its Fresh Dairy Direct (FDD) business. FDD has seen a significant decline in ice cream, cultured and other non-dairy products and fresh milk. WhiteWave-Alpro's 2011 sales grew by nearly 9% due to strong sales of Horizon Organic and the creamers business. Sales of its Silk brand soymilk got a boost from growth of Silk Pure Almond milk. Morningstar (the company's smallest business segment) saw its sales increase 11% in 2011 vs. 2010. Despite sales gains across all three business segments, Dean Foods was unprofitable in 2011. Indeed, net income plunged and cash flow from operations declined for the third consecutive year. The company blamed the net loss in 2011 on higher operating expenses, including higher commodity costs for milk, and strong demand for butter, nonfat drymilk, and cheese both in the US and overseas.
Dean Foods sold a 20% stake in WhiteWave-Alpro to the public for $391 million in fall 2012. The purchase of Alpro and its combination with WhiteWave Foods gave Dean Foods a firm presence in Europe and furthered its ambition of becoming a global brand. WhiteWave's reconfiguration also separated the Dean Foods' more traditional, lower-margin businesses from the higher-margin organic and value-added businesses. Indeed, WhiteWave-Alpro is considered by many to be the most valuable part of Dean Foods. The company's standard dairy products and its large private-label business are more vulnerable to volatility in commodity prices and consumers' dwindling appetitive for milk and other dairy products. Post-IPO Dean Foods retained an 80% stake in WhiteWave Foods.
Mergers, Acquisitions & Disposals
While Dean Foods has been focused intently on acquisitions, it has recently made some disposals. They include the Rachel's Dairy Limited (UK) business to France's Lactalis in 2010 and the sale of its Mountain High yogurt business to General Mills in early 2011. It also sold its private-label yogurt business to Schreiber Foods and later in the year OpenGate Capital acquired the dairy processing business under the Golden Guernsey brand.
FMR LLC owns about 12% of the company's shares. – less