Cheese curds at Kalona Creamery?
This is a regular question we get at Kalona Creamery Shop & Deli and all over social media. After opening in January of this year, our hope was to have cheese curd production up and running sometime this fall. However, due to a variety of factors, we will not make that timeframe.
There are a few key factors that impact this decision:
- We have a strong desire to cash flow getting our production area up and running.
- The organic milk industry is in a state of chaos.
- The retail world is going through some major changes.
- Alternative dairy is making an impact.
Now, let’s discuss these in more detail. However, we can save #1 until the end.
The Organic Milk Industry
Kalona Creamery is a member of the Open Gates Group family of companies. Many of our entities are heavily involved in the organic dairy industry. The last 12-18 months has been a wild ride for many in the industry. Several years ago, there was a significant shortage of organic milk. Currently, there is too much organic milk available and dairies are struggling to stay balanced. Unfortunately, we feel like this may continue until sometime in 2018.
While the organic milk industry has been in a state of flux, the natural and organic retail world has also been changing. The biggest and most recent news has been the acquisition of Whole Foods by Amazon. Although it may be too early to say what all of the ramifications of this will be to small, sustainable suppliers, it is safe to say that there will be changes. The marketplace has become increasingly price sensitive and big box retailers and natural food stores continue to battle each other on prices.
Finally, at the same time that these big things are happening in organic dairy and in the natural foods channel that we serve, more consumers are drinking alternative dairy than ever before. As you can imagine, this is disappointing news for all of us dairy lovers!
What Does All of This Have to Do with Cheese Curd Production?
You may wonder why we are spending so much time talking about organic milk and the natural foods industry when you wanted to know when we will start making cheese curds at Kalona Creamery. Well, here is the situation: the majority of our Open Gates Group family of companies are heavily involved in the organic milk and natural food industries. Due to all of these changes in our environment, we have less cash on hand to spend on our cheese curd production project. Our goal from the beginning was to be able to cash flow this project and avoid taking out any debt.
Since purchasing the property in 2015, we have spent considerable resources on what we refer to as Kalona Creamery Corner:
- A complete overhaul of the Kalona Farms milk receiving bay on the south side of the property. Upgrades include state of art technology, separation capabilities, upgraded cooling capacity, lab space, and more.
- A complete remodel of the original store area including cooler enhancements, handicap accessible bathrooms, deli area, and more!
- Demolition of the cheese plant area and removal of dated or unnecessary equipment.
- Exterior facility upgrades including new roof, grading, run-off control and more!
Our Open Gates Group Director Team has made the decision that we will evaluate this opportunity on a monthly basis and we hope to not delay this project too far into 2018. Trust us, cheese curd production is incredibly important to us too! But we also want to be sure that we are a sustainable and long-term part of the Kalona community.