According to Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo, Batavians owe a big thank you to Danny Wegman.
No, not for promising one of his unriviled grocery stores to Genesee County, but for steering her attention toward yogurt and the need to produce it in Western New York.
"When I visited Danny in his flagship store in Rochester, Danny said to me, ‘Indra, you should get into the yogurt business because it’s growing extremely rapidly and if you do, the plant has to be located right around here in Upstate New York,' " Nooryi said. "I listened to Danny because Danny is one of the most respected thinkers in the industry, and, Danny, we delivered on the promise.”
Wegman stood at the back of a tent crowded with local and state dignitaries and smiled broadly.
Last week, Wegman told The Batavian that it might take build out of the STAMP project in Alabama to bring a Wegmans to Batavia. Today, Wegman (top inset photo) had a slightly different take.
Coming out from a tour of the new Muller Quaker Dairy plant, he said, "more projects like this and we'll be here."
The dairy plant -- which will manufacture two brands of Greek-style yogurt, Muller FrutUp and Muller Corner -- officially opened today.
To start, it operates three production lines, employs 180 people in a 350,000-square-foot facility that could one day accommodate as many as 16 production lines.
Already, the plant produces 120,000 cups of yogurt per hour.
Sen. Charles Schumer announced during opening ceremonies that Muller Quaker has reached an agreement with the Upstate Milk Cooperative to source all of its milk from WNY dairy farmers.
The OA-TK-A plant in Batavia will produce the milk protein that Muller Quaker uses in its yogurt production (rather than strain milk as done in traditional Greek yogurt production, Muller Quaker adds protein to give its yogurt a similar rich, silky texture).
"This is an amazing shot in the arm for our economy here in Western New York and I am pledged to continue to do whatever I can do to make this the most successful venture in Western New York," Schumer said.
The project brings together two companies -- the worldwide giant in the food and beverage industry, PepsiCo, and a much smaller, but well respected, dairy company from Germany, the Theo Muller Group.
Stephan Muller, who moved to the United States to assume the reins of the new company, spoke about the entrepreneurial spirit, the risk taking of the $200 million investment by the two companies.
Muller represents the fifth generation of Mullers in the dairy business.
His father, Theo Muller, said through a translator, that the company made previous attempts to break into the U.S. market.
Stephen Muller described his father as a bit of a technophobe who never used a computer and then he got an iPhone just after Stephen Muller arrived in the U.S.
"He sent me a text message," Muller said. "I think it was his first one or one of his first ones. He said, ’520 years ago Christopher Columbus started his journey west with just three ships. Now you are our Columbus. Capital, excellent knowledge now are your ships, and one thing one cannot buy, the iron will to have success."
Nooyi (second inset photo) believes the product will be successful
PepsiCo already has a track record of success of developing a balanced portfolio of food and beverage products that she described as "fun for you, good for you and better for you."
"PepsiCo is becoming a real force in the good-for-you space," Nooyi said. "We have the best go-to-market systems and superior marketing, combined with Muller’s leadership in phenomenal dairy products, I think we’re going to become a real force in the dairy business in North America."
The success in just getting the plant open bodes well for Batavia, Schumer said. With 90 acres of available space at the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, there will likely be more jobs coming to town.
"We could employ as many as 1,200 more people when the food processors learn of the transportation advantages, the food production advatnages and just the work force advantages that we have here in this area," Schumer said. "Food processors from around the world are learning what we have to offer."
Ken Adams, president of Empire State Development, said the success of today's opening is something that will attract more investment in the park, especially in supply chain support for Muller.
"It’s a very powerful confirmation of this facility, the agri-business park as a center for international investment," Adams said. "One thing I’m struck with at this ceremony is you’ve got a global leader like PepsiCo partnering wth Muller and obviously Quaker, the PepsiCo brand, coming together right here in Batavia. The project confirms Batavia, Genesee County’s position, certainly in the Northeast if not North America, as a center of the yogurt universe."
To purchase prints of these photos, click here.