In 1953, seven small dairy Co-ops on Canada’s Prince Edward Island banded together to create an organization they felt would best utilize their individual strengths and help them compete regionally against large producers. Today, that organization – Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL) – includes 180 dairy producers processing 97 percent of the milk produced on the Island.
In addition to producing one of the Island’s most recognizable brands of milk – which bears its name – ADL is also one of Canada’s largest specialty cheese processors.
“Our main focus is co-packing – though we have our own local brand, we’re most successful with producing products for other companies,” Business Development Manager Chad Mann says. Customers include other dairy companies, retailers, foodservice organizations and branding companies. Products produced by ADL are consumed across Canada as well as in portions of the United States.
“Many of the customers we serve are national brands who place their main focus on brand management and farm out their production,” Mann says. “We can assist them in making and developing their product and let them focus on building their brand and doing distribution.”
In addition to its dairy processing capabilities, the company also operates a full-service food distributor, ADL Foods. This operation distributes roughly 5,000 dairy and other food items to hospitals, restaurants and schools in Prince Edward Island and Canada’s Maritime region.
Investing in Quality
ADL processes asiago, mozzarella, brick, gouda, Monterey jack and several varieties of parmesan, romano and cheddar cheeses in its main facility and head office in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. The company operates four other plants producing fluid milk, butter and canned evaporated milk as well as sweetened condensed milk. ADL dairy products have strong regional brand recognition; however, 90 percent of its dairy production is sold outside Prince Edward Island.
The company in June invested $1.5 million in new plant equipment including a new canned milk tray packer in one of its plants that will aid in wrapping products, and a new exact weight cutting machine for retail cheese packaging. Recent product developments include flavored cheeses and a new evaporated milk product, Mann says.
All of the company’s processing operations are unified by a focus on quality and food safety. “Years ago, our focus was on being a low-cost processor, and that’s still a priority when it comes to running the company overall, but one of the first things a new customer wants to know about is our food safety and QA program, so we’ve put a lot of investment into that,” Mann says.
The company purchases the milk it processes directly from producers rather than a regional dairy board. ADL pays incentives to farmers based on the quality of the milk they provide, and measures that quality by conducting tests above and beyond the standard regulatory bacteria and somatic cell testing. “It’s been a focus of ours for the last several years [to] not only set targets above provincial safety regulations, but to exceed those targets,” Mann adds. “In the past couple of years we’ve seen a significant improvement to the quality of our milk. Our dairy farmers member owners now rank among the top quality milk producers in Canada.”
A regimented grading program is in place for both milk and cheese. ADL is HACCP, BRC and kosher certified. “We are pretty fussy – nothing hits the market that we are unhappy with,” Mann says.
ADL’s products have also been recognized with awards from competitions including the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix and organizations including the American Cheese Society, he adds.
A Community Presence
In addition to its investments in technology, ADL believes strongly in building its employees’ skills through extensive training and development programs. “Our strongest assets are our people and the knowledge they have,” Mann says. “The majority of our staff has been here for more than 20 years. We have had good luck transferring knowledge from one group of employees to the next, which has allowed us to make a quality product.”
ADL’s employees also stay true to the company’s history by participating in community programs. The company supports a number of organizations including Special Olympics, Ducks Unlimited, 4-H and the United Way. “Everyone here believes in community,” Mann says. “Our owners want not only to see their products in the marketplace, but also want to have their presence felt in the community.”