Company: Mayfield Dairy Farms, based in Athens, Tenn.; owned by Dean Foods Co., managed by Mayfield family
Background: Grandson of company founder; worked summers at Mayfield farm and plant until going to work full-time in 1973
What do you see happening in the dairy industry?
In the milk industry right now, were seeing more positive press about milk than Ive seen in a while about it being good for you. For a long time, we heard bad things about milk. Now, various scientists have done research. One of the latest is regarding reducing blood pressure and helping you lose weight. There are all kinds of research about weight loss and calcium in the diet. In studies where people eat equal amounts of calories, the ones who eat or drink three dairy products a day tend to lose more weight.
What new products is your company testing?
The newest thing is packaging in schools, putting milks in small plastic bottles. Its more expensive, which is a negative, but schools are seeing increased participation in their lunch programs. They invest the money back into food. We have a number of schools testing the plastic bottles, and one school system Gwinnett County that is using them almost exclusively. What theyre seeing is, kids are buying more milk and drinking it, instead of it ending up in the trash. You see McDonalds and Wendys using plastic milk bottles in their kids meals. There just seems to be a positive trend toward the plastic bottle.
How is the demand for milk lately?
Demand is fairly flat. People for a long time thought that if you drank reduced-fat milk that you lost a lot of the nutrients that are in whole milk. The milk mustache campaign had a good influence. Its a big thing for people to know they can drink milk and it wont make them fat. Were seeing a lot of sales of flavored milk, in schools and elsewhere. We sell almost exclusively to consumers through grocery stores and other retailers.
Mayfield distributes milk and ice cream in the Southeast. Do you have any plans to expand?
We have expanded significantly in the last several years. We came to Atlanta with milk in 1991. Our ice cream has been down here since the late 70s. Geographically its easier to expand with ice cream, because as long as its frozen its good. The milk has to be fresh. We have to deliver to stores almost daily.
What do you expect to happen with dairy prices?
They continue to be volatile. Youll see Congress write a new dairy law, or a new farm bill, in 2006. The last one was written in 2000. But its month to month with the federal support price. Well see what happens.
What advantages or disadvantages does your business have by operating in the Southeast?
The first thing that comes to mind is we have fabulous people in the Southeast, so its easy to get a great work force. From a product standpoint this may be a disadvantage this is certainly sweet tea world. Ice cream sales are huge. We see higher sales in the summer, but theres a period in the summer in the South when it gets too hot for ice cream. People get sluggish and switch to a beverage. One of the challenges we have in the South is we have a lot of new people moving into the area. Were challenged with introducing our ice cream to them because its a regional brand, and were challenged to get people to try our milk. Once we get people to try our brand, we think we have no problem getting our share of the sales