Changes in Dollar General Dairy Coolers in the Southeast; DG Fresh Distribution Centers Shift Available Brands

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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):

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GALLONS:  Some Comparisons of the new and previous in East TN:

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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:

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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

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Recipes-In-Love: Crafting Happy Hearts & Magic Memories (Thanks, KG!)

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“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” – Alan D. Wolfelt

 

What a world we’ve lived in the past six weeks!  When COVID-19 began sending the United States into a terrific tailspin of re-aligning our daily lives, whoever would have thought that our world would almost have totally changed in a period of six weeks.

 

Our life’s priorities have been realigned, and some of that is not all bad.  Spending more time at home has caused us to get reacquainted with our cookbooks and cookware, and revisit things in the kitchen.  In an effort to find some semblance of comfort, we’ve gone digging into recipe boxes for those beloved family-favorite recipes  which remind us of better times and bring back warm and happy memories.

 

And so, I’ve called upon Kathy Dougherty to help share some comfort with the rest of us through her recipes.  Kathy and her husband Blan are long-time, 3rd generation members of AgCentral Farmers Co-op, a farm-supply cooperative based in Southeast Tn.  Kathy is known to be one of the best farm cooks in all of the Southeast, and is infamous for her contributions to her community through agricultural boards, school boards, and education organizations.  (I’m also blessed to call her a dear friend!)

 

She loves creating memories with her family through cooking and her recipes, so she was a natural to call on for this first ‘recipe’ post – we surely hope there are more to come.  First, let’s meet her family –

 

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On the left, you find Kathy and Blan with granddaughter, Willow.  And on the right, daughter Betsy with husband Russell, and their sons Ryland and Cameron.  Kathy enjoys crafting recipes and creating memories for and with them all!

Kathy is also famously known for referring to Russell as her “Son-In-Love.”  That term of endearment is the inspiration for this post, and what is hoped to be the first of others like it  – “Recipes-In-Love.” 

So therefore, Russell and Kathy’s relationship is the catalyst for the first recipe we share – “Son-In-Love Brownies.”  According to Kathy, these are his favorite brownies, and once you taste them, they might become your favorite too!  They’re pretty easy to make, but the flavor is as gourmet as any you will find at an upscale bakery!

 

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Son-In-Love Brownies

1 box of regular brownie mix*

2 “Giant” size Symphony candy bars with toffee and almonds
Mix brownies as directed on the box. Pour half the mixture into a 9″ x 13″ pan.
Break the Symphony bars into pieces along perforations.
Place in the pan on top of the brownie mixture.
Cover with the remaining mixture. Gently smooth over candy pieces.
Bake according to the directions on the box, adding 5-10 minutes to baking time.
*We prefer just a plain chocolate brownie mix. (from Kathy)

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Of course, Brownies are always better with milk, and Mayfield is a favorite milk in the Dougherty household!  And why not drink it out of a fancy spring glass to lift your mood?

Million Dollar Cheese Dip     (A local-centric version)

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Million Dollar Cheese Dip
Green onions to taste, chopped, to add color and flavor
8 ounce Shredded Sharp Cheddar
1 1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup real bacon bits
1/2 chopped, toasted pecans
Mix all ingredients together and chill at least two hours before serving. Serve with your favorite crackers. (We like the Pretzel Flips and Ritz.) Easily doubled.

Willow’s Crispies

Scroll on down for a favorite treat of Kathy’s grandaughter, Willow!
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Willow’s Crispies
1 box cake mix*
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup melted butter
1 egg
Combine all the ingredients. Roll into 1″ balls
Place 2″ apart on a cookie sheet.
Bake 10-15 minutes at 375 degrees.
Keep tightly closed to keep them crisp.
*We like lemon cake mix, devil’s food cake mix and strawberry cake mix.
Coconut cake mix is good too then substitute 1/2 cup of coconut for 1/2 cup of Rice Krispies.
Look for a future photo of Willow’s Crispies!

Additional Recipes:  (but no photos at this time!)

Biscuits and Gravy Casserole

1 pound sausage, cooked and drained
1 package Pioneer Gravy mix
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 can Pillsbury Grands biscuits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make the gravy according to directions on package
Cut biscuits into 1″ pieces and line the bottom of the pan. Spread cooked sausage over the biscuits. Sprinkle cheese on top.
Beat the eggs with the milk and pour over biscuits and sausage.
Pour gravy over all. Bake 30-35 minutes.
Can be refrigerated and baked the next morning.

Tammie Fruit Salad  (Yes, that’s the correct name!)

1 can pineapple tidbits, drained
1 large can Mandarin oranges, drained
Cherries, (if you like them) drained
1 can peach pie filling
2 bananas, sliced
Any other fresh fruit you like such as strawberries and blueberries.
You can also add 1/2 cup coconut. I add about 1 cup toasted, chopped pecans.
Best made the day before.

Willow’s Baked Corn Casserole

1 15 ounce can whole kernel corn. Do NOT drain.
1 14 ounce cream corn
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
Combine all and pour into a 9×13 dish.
Bake 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
These recipes are some of Kathy’s favorites!  We hope you enjoy them as much as Kathy’s family has!  And – we look forward to sharing some of your favorites in the future!
Recipes-In-Love.  Creating Warm Memories and Happy Hearts! One Serving at a Time!
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Proposal for Multiple Component Pricing in Southeast Withdrawn

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National All-Jersey has withdrawn their request  for a USDA-AMS Dairy Program FMMO Hearing to consider implementation of Multiple Component Pricing for the Southeast (FMMO 7) and Appalachian (FMMO 5) Milk Marketing Orders.
The withdrawal of this proposal culminates a process of several years of discussion and evaluations by producer groups and several dairy cooperatives on how Multiple Component Pricing in the Southeast might affect producer pay checks.
Following is the timeline of this spring’s events:
April 2, 2018: National All-Jersey submitted their 80-page proposal  requesting a hearing.
May 2, 2018:  USDA-AMS then posted an Action Plan.
May 16, 2018: An information session was held in Knoxville, in Knoxville, TN, which was coordinated by Tennessee and Kentucky Farm Bureaus.  The session was recorded in two parts, and each are available for viewing:
  • Part 1:  A 1 hr – 39 minute video recorded by TN Farm Bureau (Dana Coale, explaining FMMO process)
  • Part 2:  A 1 hr. 14  minute video recorded by TN Farm Bureau  (FMMO Administrators and officials explaining the specifics of the process leading to acceptance or denial of an MCP hearing)
June 1, 2018:  Two additional proposals were submitted to USDA-AMS:
  1. A  7-page request from Michael Brown, Director, Dairy Supply Chain for Kroger, stated: “We ask USDA to also include the a proposal to lower the minimum amount of Class I Sales required a distributing plant to achieve pooling status from 50% to 25%. “
  2. The Tennessee Dairy Producers Association, with Stan Butt as Executive Director, submitted a 16-page proposal in opposition to Multiple Component Pricing, with this opening statement:  “Opposition to the proposal submitted by NAJ to changing the current pricing structure in FMMOs 5&7 is based on the proposition that the majority of producers in both orders will be negatively affected.”
June 11, 2018:  A letter-to-the-editor written by John Harrison, Sweetwater Valley Farm in opposition to Multiple Component Pricing was posted by Progressive Dairyman.
June 28, 2018:  The letter withdrawing the Hearing request,  written by Erick Metzger, General Manager of National All-Jersey, posted at USDA-AMS – Dairy Program,  contains these statements:

 
“Marketing conditions in the Appalachian and Southeast Federal Order Marketing Areas are in a state of flux, aggravated by challenging national dairy product markets.
 
The proponents therefore withdraw their proposal for a multiple component pricing hearing in Orders 5 and 7 at this time.”
The letter closes with:
 “We anticipate resubmitting the proposal when the current marketing  challenges have stabilized and resources necessary to advance the proposal again become available.
Here is the letter in its entirety:
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All USDA-FMMO processes are directed and defined by a set of rules, including procedural rules.  It is up to farmers themselves – those most affected by FMMO rules and regulations – to learn the process, and to participate in the process. 
This spring, and the preceding years and months of information seeking, are an example of civil discourse which can occur.
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Mayfield: CEO Quality Award – Dean Food’s Top Honor built on TN-Southeast Farm-to-Table Dairy Heritage, Community Pride

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(Athens, TN) –  Mayfield Dairy in Athens, TN is the recipient of the Dean Foods CEO Quality Award for ice cream for 2016.  This award is the company’s top honor, and Mayfield Dairy Farms was selected over Dean Foods’ nine-other ice cream plants after a rigorous, year-long judging process.

“We are delighted with Mayfield’s excellence in protecting quality from farm to table, and we’re proud to hold them up as an example,” stated Mr. Ralph Scozzafavo, CEO of Dean Foods.  “Dean Foods holds its plants to very high standards, making for particularly stiff competition surrounding this award,” he said.

Mayfield plants in the Southeast have a history of receiving Quality awards.  The Athens plant has previously received Excellence in Quality recognition in 2016, 2015, and 2014.  The Mayfield / Barber’s plant in Birmingham AL received the CEO’s Quality Award two years in a row for 2015 and 2014

If you’ve grown up in the south, especially if you’ve been involved with dairy farming in the Southeast, “Mayfield Dairy” is a name that immediately combines the elements of high quality, in-demand milk and ice cream, and how the demand generated by such a local dairy plant impacts farms and the agriculture economy in an area.  As Mayfield has grown in sales through the decades, so has the southeast dairy farm community achieved continually higher standards of quality in on-farm practices of animal care and welfare, along with sanitation and technology of equipment in milking barns.

 

The CEO Quality Award was presented to Mayfield Dairy management and employees in Athens on April 21, 2017 by Dean Foods CEO Ralph Scozzafava.

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The Dean Foods CEO Quality Award is the culmination of an intensive assessment process. This year, five fluid milk plants and three ice cream plants, including Mayfield Dairy, were selected as Excellence in Quality Award winners based on multiple criteria such as Safe Quality Food (SQF) Program scores, training participation, and consumer complaint improvement.

Next, these eight plants were scrutinized further by Dean Foods’ senior leadership who took into account quality innovations, best practices, and the “quality culture” within the plant.  Mayfield Dairy emerged as the cream of the crop in the ice cream category.

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“I could not be more thankful for the team here in Athens,” said Scott Watson, Plant Manager.  “The products we manufacture reach the tables of families throughout the southeast and our folks do an incredible job of assuring that our ice cream is consistent day in and day out for our customers.  In short, we get to make and distribute ice cream for a living, and it it doesn’t get much more fun than that!”

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How does Mayfield stand in context with other dairy processing plants?

  1. Mayfield / Athens is one of 67 plants in the Dean Foods system, according to a 2015 article in Dairy Foods Magazine.  With revenues of over $8 Billion, Dean Foods collectively is the 2nd largest dairy food processor on the Dairy Foods Top 100 list, published this August by Dairy Foods magazine.  Summarized information about the companies on the Top 100 list, topped by Nestle, with revenues over $12 Billion, describes in more detail each of the top 100 companies.
  2. While Dean Foods has a branding footprint from coast-to-coast with DairyPure and TruMoo in some of their product lines (co-branded with time-honored regional brands), they are one of the largest supporters of LOCAL DAIRY COMMUNITIES, since each plant generally sources milk from dairy farms (many family-sized farm operations) within a close radius.
  3. In 2015, Dairy Foods Magazine published an article which related a broad-ranging description of the Athens plant complex, including some private label products,  its fluid and ice cream operations, and the quality priorities of the entire processing center.
  4. #47-225 and #47-131 – PLANT numbers are the key to knowing if your milk or ice cream brand may be processed and packaged at this award-winning plant in Athens!  To know if the milk or ice-cream you’re consuming is one of the brands or private labels processed at this award winning plant, check the Plant Code (mandated by law/regulation) found on each and every carton of dairy product processed here! The fluid plant number is #47-131, and the ice cream plant number is #47-225. The quality found at Mayfield Athens is the foundation of goodness for them all, and an indication you are supporting LOCAL farms in your area!
  5. Other southeast Dean Foods plants to watch for?   The code #01-0176 signals that an ice-cream product has been made at the Barber’s ice cream plant in Birmingham, AL, a previous winner of the CEO Quality Award.  #01-0104 signals that a fluid milk product is processed at the Dean – Barber’s plant,  also in Birmingham.  #13-230 is the code number meaning dairy products are from the Dean – Mayfield plant at Braselton, GA.   #45-01 is the Dean – Pet plant at Spartanburg, SC.   From Nashville, the Purity Dairies plant, known for award-winning chocolate milk, is #47-118, and the Country Delite plant, which processes a lot of private-label milks for independent grocery chains, carries the code #47-120.
  6. The local newspaper, the Daily-Post Athenian, just about a 1/2 mile away from the Athens plant, published a front-page report with photos of plant key personnel.

 

Mary Williams is the manager of the Mayfield Division of Dean Foods, which include the Mayfield Athens plant, a plant a Braselton, GA, and an ice-cream plant in Birmingham, AL, also known as Barber’s.  She also acknowledged the daily commitment and dedication of the Mayfield employees and associates which led to this quality award.

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The brand MAYFIELD is much more than ‘a carton to pick-up’  to the ‘home folks’ in southeast Tennessee, and a wider southeast radius about 200 miles from the site of the original Athens plant.  MAYFIELD is the key to consumer shelf space at grocery stores, and therefore a LOCAL connector between dairy farm families and marketplace.  Those MAYFIELD cartons mean that area farms are able to pay bills, support their families and local churches, pay property taxes which support local governments, and are a driver for the southeast Ag Economy.

Mayfield employees and area dairy farmers are neighbors, sometimes cousins, sometimes husband and wife, and often go to the same churches.  To say this is a LOCAL DAIRY Community is an understatement; the bonds of history are deep, and wide, and strong.  All take mutual pride in the success of each other in various family, community, and business, and personal achievements.

The Agriculture community adds their “Congratulations” to the many already received by Mayfield.  Farmers also say “THANK YOU” to Dean Foods for supporting our neighborhoods and dairy futures.  Many farm young folks have committed to a future in the dairy industry by investments in milking barns and housing facilities for maximum animal welfare.  The continued support of Dean Foods will bolster those futures as young farmers aspire to help feed the world well into the future.

Here’s to more Mayfield awards in the future!

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