Changes are happening in Dollar General dairy cases. In the southeast, this means that there will be visible changes in brands on the cooler shelves. In some cases, depending on location, this means that familiar ‘local’ brands, which supported farms in the immediate local area, will no longer be available to consumers in at their community Dollar General.
In late 2018, Dollar General announced plans for a new “DG Fresh” Distribution plan, and opened their first regional distribution center for perishable goods in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. During 2019, 4 more regional warehouses were built, with several of those coming on-line in late 2019 and early 2020.
Part of this plan included the expansion of the Dollar General’s in-house Clover Valley brand onto milk cartons sold in the regular DG stores, whereby Dollar General would further utilize its own private label. For a few years, Clover Valley branded milk has been available in the Dollar General Markets (the grocery format DG, but without a huge footprint like the stores you see every 5-6 miles).
Affecting the lower Southeast milkshed most directly are two of those warehouses, one in Atlanta, GA, and another in Montgomery, AL. In some regions, this means that familiar local brands will no longer appear on the shelves of their local Dollar General stores.
Perhaps the most affected region will be East Tennessee. Beginning in the second week of June, 2020, local dairy farmers and their families, following their habits, went into Dollar Generals specifically to purchase Mayfield brands (Mayfield in the yellow carton and Fieldcrest in a translucent carton), but were startled to see they were no longer available. Instead, they saw Clover Valley private labels and PET branded milks.
For several years, local consumers in East TN could rest assured they would be supporting their local dairy farm neighbors by purchasing either Mayfield or Fieldcrest brands at a Dollar General store. Many dairy farm families and their friends and neighbors shopped at Dollar General because they knew the chain supported their farms. This grass-roots promotion by the farmers themselves, who knew retail brands were a means of connecting their farms with a consumer sale, sent many customers to Dollar General. Those farmers will now be sending those consumers to other retailers.
This Dollar General move ultimately means local milk from East Tennessee dairy farms, processed at the Mayfield Dairy plant in Athens, has lost a significant amount of retail shelf space in the immediate area. Sources, who asked not to be identified, said the milk will still have a Dollar General home, but will be processed and packaged in Athens, then hauled to a warehouse in the Montgomery, AL area, for distribution in the coastal southeast.
Dollar General has now built 5 of a projected 17 regional distribution centers for refrigerated and fresh products. Those distribution warehouses will serve as hubs in which Dollar General will supply their own stores, instead of relying on Direct Store Delivery (DSD) from various vendors and other regional food distributors.
Atlanta DG Fresh Warehouse will serve East TN: Up until now, Dollar Generals in East Tn, North Georgia, and SW Virginia had received their milk deliveries directly from Mayfield trucks, arriving 2-3x a week. Beginning this June 2020, they will receive milk from a DG Fresh warehouse located in the Atlanta area. That warehouse will receive packaged milk from the Pet Dairy Plant at Spartanburg, SC, which does buy milk from southeast farms, just generally not Tennessee farms.
Change was underway before the Dean Foods bankruptcy: Both Pet and Mayfield were previously owned by Dean Foods, but as of May 1st, are now owned by Dairy Farmers of America, Inc, the nation’s largest milk cooperative. The Dollar General plan was initiated in the latter half of 2018, and was well underway before the Dean Foods / Southern Foods Group, LLC Chapter 11 bankruptcy was filed in November of 2019, and long before the DFA purchase of Mayfield, Pet and other Dean Foods operations.
So, what’s in store for Dollar General dairy cases? Here’s a sampling of what’s being seen thus far (as of June 19, 2020). The changeover isn’t quite complete, and it hasn’t been determined how wide a geographic area this will affect. At this time, it’s unknown how Dollar Generals in the middle TN area, which has been served by Purity and its private Dairy Belle label, will be affected.
Point of Pride now gone for East Tn Farmers: Many dairy farmers in East TN were very happy that Dollar General carried the Mayfield and Fieldcrest brands, and many shopped at Dollar General for that very reason. After all, it was a Tennessee-based company carrying a highly nutritious product that was produced on Tennessee farms. And that milk not only affected dairy farms, it was a means of connection for other farms who grew grains and hay that went to feed those Mayfield cows. That intense in-state connection has now been broken by a Dollar General corporate decision for ‘efficiency’ for Dollar General. Farmers may understand it, but it doesn’t make it any less painful for them to not be able to make that connection with a product on a shelf.
The ‘short-description’ of the new ‘milk domino game’ type of distribution:
- Milk, largely from farms in the Carolinas and NW Georgia, will be processed at the PET plant in Spartanburg, SC, then shipped to a DG Warehouse in Atlanta, for distribution to DG stores in GA, East TN, and as far west as Birmingham AL. (there might be slight variations in the distribution territory).
- Milk from East TN and North Georgia farms will be processed at Athens, TN, packaged in cartons wearing the Mayfield and Clover Valley brands, then shipped to Montgomery, AL for distribution in the Coastal South.
- It’s not yet known how this switch will affect FL, VA, and KY and areas farther west.
- Observation: As Covid-19 panic buying ensued in March and April, Dollar General stores in the southeast experienced milk shortages like grocery stores. However, some of the shortages in DG were also likely due to DG personnel getting adjusted to this new distribution schematic. Even this week, there have been some very empty Dollar General coolers, particularly a couple of days after a delivery.
But above all, Dairy Farmers in the South do appreciate everyone who buys any of these southeast brands, and we appreciate Dollar General for buying milk from southeast farms!
Photos tell the story:
The Changes in Chugs in East TN (the ‘drop in and get it to go cause it’s local’ size):
GALLONS: Some Comparisons of the new and previous in East TN:
PLANT CODES: How we know where the milk was processed (most farms in the southeast know where the farms are) along with a note about the “Best By” date:
History of DG Fresh Implementation, and Background:
Dollar General has over 16,000 stores, and approximately 5,000 are now receiving goods from their DG Fresh Perishable Goods warehouses. The company hopes to be nationwide with this effort within 3-4 years. Here’s a progression:
Mar 15, 2019: Dollar General Shifting to Self-Distribution of Fresh and Frozen; by Russell Redman for Supermarket News
- The effort began in very early 2019 with 300 stores in the Northeast, distribution facility located in Pottsville, PA
- CEO Todd Vasos said “DG Fresh will allow us to control our own destiny in fresh foods.”
- Vasos: “In addition, self-distribution will allow us to offer a wider selection of our own private brands to provide our customers with even more compelling value. Overall, we expect DG Fresh to allow us to do a better job of tailoring our product selection to fit the needs of our customers, particularly in rural areas.”
March 19, 2019: Dollar General Brings Perishables Distribution In-House, Will Open 975 New Stores in in 2019, by Glenn Taylor, for Retail Touch Points
Aug 29, 2019: Dollar General Encouraged by DG Fresh Rollout,by Ron Ruggles for Supermarket News
Aug 29, 2019: Dollar General Expanding DG Fresh to Fourth Distribution Center, posted at Produce Blue Book
- From one warehouse in PA in Jan of 2019, then one in NC and GA during the spring and summer of 2019, adding another in Indiana last fall
Dec 6, 2019: Dollar General to open 5th Warehouse in Fresh Distribution Overhaul by Emma Cosgrove, Supply Chain Dive