A 127-year-old family-owned Ontario dairy processor is set to go co-op.
Gay Lea Foods, the province’s largest dairy co-operative, announced Wednesday it reached a deal to buy Hewitt’s Dairy of Hagersville for an undisclosed sum, effective Nov. 1.
Hewitt’s is an icon in southern Ontario for its dairy bar just north of Hagersville, about 25 km southeast of Brantford, but the company also processes and co-packs specialty products for retail and foodservice clients.
The company, founded in 1887 by dairyman James Hewitt using milk from the family’s farm, sold off its dairy herd in 1950 and set up a processing plant at its current site in Hagersville. The plant was replaced in 1980 and underwent major expansions in 1991 and 1992.
Hewitt’s today processes milk, cream, sour cream, cultured beverages and yogurt, sourcing cows’ milk through Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO) and goats’ milk through contracts with almost 120 dairy goat farms.
The company’s dairy bar, in business since 1962, features over 100 flavours of ice cream, plus sugar-free and low-fat ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and goat ice cream.
Taking over Hewitt’s “will expand Gay Lea’s presence in the Ontario dairy marketplace and increase the diversity of our basket of goods,” Gay Lea Foods CEO Michael Barrett said Wednesday in a release. “We look forward to new opportunities as we welcome such a well-respected brand to our co-operative.”
Hewitt’s and Gay Lea have “two strong and rich histories” in Ontario, Hewitt’s president Marie Hewitt said in the same release. “I know Gay Lea Foods is committed to the dream our family created; to our loyal employees; to our valued customers; to our quality dairy goat producers; and to the community in which we live.”
Hewitt’s co-pack customers in Ontario include Kincardine-based Harmony Organic, an organic milk company, and Good Moood Farm, which supplies yogurt drinks, kefir and another yogurt-like beverage, ryazhenka, to specialty grocers and Costco stores.
The investment is the second in the area’s dairy sector this year for Mississauga-based Gay Lea, which closed a deal in February to buy Hamilton-based family-owned cheesemaker Salerno Foods. — AGCanada.com Network
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