Companies say: ‘Transaction will secure operations into future’
By Sherry Bunting, previously published in Farmshine, February 3, 2023
READING, Pa. — For over a year, the dairy industry has been aware that the iconic Clover Farms Dairy in Reading, Berks County, Pennsylvania was up for sale, and something was in the works, as its owners and officers near retirement.
On January 23, a joint statement by Clover Farms Dairy and Florence, New Jersey-based Cream-O-Land Dairy confirmed what had been rumored, that the two companies are working together to close a deal that will keep the Berks County plant operational. The recent official statement announces that a subsidiary of Cream-O-Land will purchase Clover Farms, but no details are being revealed.
Clover’s milk shippers received letters dated Jan. 18, stating “Clover Farms Management is pleased to announce that an asset purchase agreement has been executed between Clover Farms Dairy and Cream-O-Land Dairy” and that “both parties are working diligently to close the transaction, likely to occur within two months.”
“I hope this is a seamless transition,” observed Pennsylvania Senator Judy Schwank in a public statement the next day, January 24. Schwank represents Pennsylvania’s 11th district in which the Clover Farms plant and a large number of its patron dairy farms reside.
“I understand independent dairy farmers who have been shipping their milk to Clover Farms have a commitment from Cream-O-Land Dairy to continue that arrangement, and the plant in Berks County will remain operational,” she said. “Milk processors are a key component of the dairy industry infrastructure in Pennsylvania; so it’s important that we maintain existing processing plants. Clover Farms is an iconic brand, and is known as a premium local product, my hope is it will continue to be while under new ownership.”
Specifically, the Clover Farms letter states that, “This transaction will secure operations into the future as a strong regional dairy processor, which provides hundreds of jobs in eastern Pennsylvania and a stable market for the independent producer network.”
According to its website, Clover Farms employs 300 people, and is supplied by 170 independent dairy farms. These farms are located in Berks, Lancaster, Lebanon and Lehigh counties. According to additional sources close to the situation, milk supplies are often balanced via cooperatives.
Clover Farms milk and dairy products are sold throughout eastern Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland. Clover Farms also bottles private label store brands, including the Redner’s Warehouse Markets whole milk. The two companies have had a longstanding business relationship.
With the tagline “fresh taste, local farms,” Clover Farms Dairy has focused on connecting consumers to farmers, being among the first to put a simple QR code on packaging that can be scanned with a cell phone to go to links on the internet with stories and videos about some of the farms supplying the milk, and to understand how milk goes “from cow to carton.”
Sources close to the situation indicate Clover Farms and Cream-O-Land have had an existing co-packing and distribution business relationship for a number of years.
Clover Farms Dairy was established in 1937 by the Rothenberger family, with John B. Rothenberger still listed as treasurer at Dun and Bradstreet; however, digital entries at OpenCorporates indicate he and president Rick Hartman were removed as officers in April 2022 in anticipation of a transition in ownership.
Cream-O-Land Dairy was established in 1943 by Samuel Schneier. According to its website, the company is run today by grandsons Jay and Robert.
Cream-O-Land’s logistical footprint, according to its website, includes a network of warehouses and truck fleets that service grocery stores, supermarkets, schools and colleges throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Florida, and The Bahamas.
In addition to its Cream-O-Land brand of milk, cream and cultured dairy products, the company distributes specialty milks such as lactose-free, fortified, organic, flavored and seasonal; as well as New York brands Five Acre Farms and Ronny Brook; several brands of teas, waters and juices; eggs, salad and bakery items; and non-dairy alternative almond, soy and pea beverages under brands like Ardmore Farms, Pacific and Ripple, as well as the Elmhurst ‘Milked’ brand of plant-based alternative beverages bottled in Steuben, New York.
Calls to Clover Farms and Cream-O-Land were not immediately returned.