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Sunday, August 24, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Photos: Firefighters practice confined space rescues

Genesee County Emergency Services and the Town of Batavia Fire Department conducted a confined spaces drill yesterday at the Muller Quaker Dairy plant.

Nationally, from 80 to 100 people die every year in confined space accidents and even rescues can be difficult and dangerous.

Photos submitted by a reader.

Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Executive for Muller says yogurt maker on pace for $100 million in sales in U.S.

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Muller Quaker Dairy

An executive of Batavia-based Muller Quaker Dairy tells an food industry news Web site that the yogurt maker is on pace to reach $100 million in annual sales in the U.S.

"Promotions are playing a role," Barb Yehling, chief marketing officer at Muller Quaker Dairy, told Foodnavigator-USA.com. "However, at the end of the day it’s product quality and taste that matter to consumers. Again, this is where Müller yogurt excels."

Yehling said the company is focused on innovation and meeting unmet needs to bring to the American public a Greek-style yogurt that is fun and flavorful.

Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm

It's kosher when you eat Muller yogurt

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, Muller Quaker Dairy, PepsiCo

Here's a little fact about Genesee County you may not know: Batavia's largest food processing plant is kosher.

Kosher, as in certified by a rabbi.

That means no animal -- except fish -- products are used in the plant's food production, as in no cow or pig parts to make gelatin.

A few days ago as I passed through the Tops check-out line with six containers of Frut Up (I really wish they would sell this in a six-pack container), the cashier said, "did you know there's tilapia in this?"

Heck, up to that point, I didn't even know what tilapia was. Some sort of fish, I recalled dimly.

When I got home, I read the label a little closer. Yup, tilapia is listed. So is "kosher gelatin."

If you know your history of Jell-O (and who doesn't in Genesee County), you know gelatin was originally made with from pork and pork skins, horses, and cattle bones or cattle hides. 

Those are all animals that in a kosher kitchen can't mix, even a single molecule.

As it turns out, you can also make gelatin from tilapia, and since observant Jews can mix fish and dairy, if you want fruity gelatin with your yogurt, and you want it to be kosher, you need tilapia to do it.

Rabbi Doctor David Sheinkopf inspected the Muller Quaker plant in Batavia and as a result, the yogurt products Frut Up and Corner can be sold as "Certified Kosher," according to Scott Gilmore, spokesman for PepsiCo.

"Taste is important and we use the best ingredients," Gilmore said. "We aim to make the best tasting yogurt on the market, but consumers told us it (kosher yogurt) was important to them and we wanted to honor that request."

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 11:05 pm

GCEDC CEO out of the spotlight during ceremony for big yogurt plant he helped put on the map

Throughout the 90-minute opening ceremony for the new Muller Quaker Dairy Plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Steve Hyde sat in the second row and smiled.

Not one speaker -- and there were five of them -- mentioned Hyde by name. There was no official recognition of his work to bring this day about.

Still, he smiled.

You couldn't help but think of a proud father watching his son or daughter graduate.

Asked how he felt afterward, Hyde, as he usually does when posed such questions, demurred and praised others.

"It’s a great day for everybody in the community," Hyde said. "This was a dream of mine and a lot of other partners. It’s 10 years in the making and this is just phase one."

Hyde has his critics. Genesee County Economic Development Center, the organization he runs, has its skeptics. But the Muller Quaker plant is a big deal, especially for a county of only 57,000 people that hasn't had a big factory opening in more than five decades.

PepsiCo and Theo Muller Group invested $200 million in the facility and that dollar figure doesn't count product development, designs for new trade-secret machinery to create the Greek-style yogurt, new software to run the plant and the planning that goes into bringing a new product to market.

Ken Adams, president of Empire State Development, indicated he was a little bit awed by the idea of a global powerhouse like Pepsi and a German-based company like Theo Muller coming to Upstate New York.

"Having PepsiCo here, having Muller here, is like a global seal of approval for this park and its infrastructure," Adams said.

And he gives a lot of the credit for making it happen to Hyde.

"Steve Hyde as far as I’m concerned, he really put the agri-business park, this particular location, on the map at a statewide level," Adams said. "Steve is always in Albany working very closely with the legislators from the area, senate and assembly, working very close with the governor’s office.

"I’ve told this to him, so I'll say it to you," Adams added, "Steve Hyde is a forceful, well respected advocate for investment and economic development here in Batavia. He really put the site on the map and then he also pulls everybody together at the local and state level to make sure a project like this actually goes smoothly. That’s important for the company, for the investors, that there are no hiccups along the way."

A critical factor with Muller Quaker -- called Project Wave during the planning process -- was the speed at which all of the necessary permits could be secured. A lot of credit goes to Town of Batavia and Genesee County officials, but the GCEDC staff laid the ground work to have a shovel-ready site and push the paperwork through the process.

In his speech today, Theo Muller praised the local authorities who got approval for the plant so quickly.

"It would be unimaginable in Germany," he said with a wink. "In Germany that would have taken at the very least three years. You have to send a whole case of yogurt to them over there to get anything done."

Sen. Charles Schummer called the ag park a great idea of local leaders and said when GCEDC came to him for help, he was happy to jump in and secure federal grants for infrastructure.

"There is no better way to strengthen our dairy industry and create jobs than to build a park like this, which has helped attract this great company," Schumer said.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley, who helped with the state legislative process on the project, noted that in any big project like this, stretching, as it does, across the boundaries of local, state and federal responsibilities, there are a lot of people who deserve credit for bringing it together, but Hyde certainly provided critical leadership.

"This is a big deal," Hawley said. "It's one of the largest plants in the country. We need jobs. I hear about it every day from constituents."

It takes a lot of work, Hawley said, to untangle the regulations that can hold up a business and a lot of people had a hand in bringing it together.

"A lot of the credit goes to Steve, but it's a team effort," Hawley said.

Danny Wegman, CEO of Wegmans and president of the Finger Lakes Economic Development Council, is also a Steve Hyde fan. He believes Hyde will pull off the gargantuan task of developing WNY STAMP, the proposed 1,200-acre, high-tech manufacturing park in Alabama that could employ 9,300 people some day.

It's an audacious project, but Wegman said when there are people passionate about projects, they can make things happen.

"Steve is very excited about this," Wegman said last week during the governor's visit to Genesee Community College. "There are a lot of confidential things that can't be shared, but I feel confident that if somebody I believe in is excited about it, the chances of it happening are pretty good."

The success of the ag park only enhances the chance's of success with STAMP, Adams said.

"We’re very hopeful," Adams said. "It’s a globally competitive industry. The opportunity is at STAMP. It’s a great site. It’s much bigger than this site, the agri-business park, but Steve has done a good job at lining up all of the vital ingredients for that site -- power, water, obviously the land, permitting, all the things you need to really be shovel-ready when the right business comes along. He’s the chief marketer. He’s going to Albany tomorrow. He’s on it and he works very closely my colleagues at ESD on marketing STAMP, so we have our fingers crossed."

Hyde said it's all about building on the natural assets of Batavia and Genesee County and showing that can be done with the ag park will translate into confidence for other projects, such as STAMP.

"It helps build credibility in the eyes of some of the folks in the leadership roles in the state that we know how to do this here at the local level," Hyde said. "This (agriculture) is an industry where the regional assets were in great demand and we could make an impact, and when you look at the regional assets in the nano stuff in our region we’ve got the same situation developing."

Monday, June 3, 2013 at 9:53 pm

Officials optimistic about yogurt and Genesee County with opening of Muller Quaker plant

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.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Photos: Muller Quaker hosts information session at GCC

If you've wondered what Muller Quaker Dairy is all about, or want to find out about employment opportunities, today was the day to meet executives, try out some yogurt or put in a job application at GCC.

Hundreds of people turned out in the afternoon and the event continues until 8 p.m. in the forum.

"We're excited to be a part of the local community, so we wanted to open our doors and let people know a little more about us," said Scott Gilmore, director communications for PepsiCo, one of the partners in the new yogurt plant at Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park.

There were executives on hand to explain plant design and operations, the booming yogurt industry and the nature of the partnership between PepsiCo and the Germany-based Theo Muller Group.

The yogurt plant is expected to employ nearly 240 people in its first round of hiring, and some local residents have already landed jobs with the company.

Muller Quaker HR personnel were on hand today accepting applications, meeting with job candidates and explaining more about employment options at the new plant.

At one point today, the job applicant line was more than a couple dozen people long.

Gilmore said people in blue jeans and people in suits showed up today, demonstrating the diversity of jobs that will be available at the plant.

If you're not able to make it to GCC by 8 p.m., Gilmore said the company plans more such community events, or job applicants can e-mail their resumes to [email protected].

Wednesday, October 24, 2012 at 1:21 pm

POSTPONED DUE TO STORM: Muller Quaker Dairy meet-and-greet at GCC

post by Billie Owens in bataavia, events, GCC, Muller Quaker Dairy

POSTPONED DUE TO STORM -- Join us on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Genesee Community College to find out more about the new company in town -- Muller Quaker Dairy.

From noon to 8 p.m., Muller Quaker Dairy representatives will be on site with information about the products, business and background of the joint venture between PepsiCo and the Theo Müller Group.

* Try free Müller yogurt samples

* Pick up some employment info (resumes will be accepted)

* Learn about the new Batavia facility, sales, marketing and the company

The Batavia campus is located at 1 College Road in the Town of Batavia.

Event Date and Time

October 30, 2012 - 12:00pm - 8:00pm
Thursday, August 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm

County officials get high praise from executives, governor for bringing new yogurt plant to Batavia

PepsiCo and Theo Muller officials along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the efforts of local leaders to convince the two international companies to locate their new yogurt plant in Batavia.

The executives, elected officials along with a host of local dignitaries gathered at the new Muller Quaker Dairy plant in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park today for a dedication ceremony for the new plant.

Indra Nooyi, CEO of Pepsi, said once it was time to make a decision about the location for the plant, Batavia was an easy choice.

"I must say the Genesee County people and the governor’s office were just amazing in the way they worked with us," Nooyi said. "There was no competition. We love being here. The Genesee County people have to be given a lot of credit, the way they brought the forces of the county together to get everything expedited in such a short time. I think it is a real textbook example of how to attract investment into any community."

Stefan Muller, the CEO of the newly formed Muller Quaker Dairy company, said the day that executives traveled to the Genesee Agri-Business Park, the amount of support Genesee County lined up for the visit was impressive. There were representatives from local government and utility companies making promises on delivery of what Pepsi and Muller would need to build the project.

"I have seen 60 sites that were just locations on a map and I have seen six sites personally, but what we saw here was just outstanding," Muller said. "We were promised to get all of the permissions within weeks and we couldn’t believe it."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also praised Genesee County officials and said the effort to bring the Muller Quaker plant to Batavia is an example of how New York is open for business.

“We want business in New York," Cuomo said. "Business is the engine that drives the train, providing the jobs, providing the opportunity, providing the career ladder, providing the revenues to local governments. It’s all about making the private sector run and making the private sector run well and government partnering with that private sector. “

Yogurt, Cuomo said, is quickly becoming a big part of New York's economy -- production is up 60 percent in the past few years and there are now 49 yogurt plants in the state. He said the state is committed to ensuring the yogurt industry succeeds.

"We believe in the yogurt story and we’ve invested in the yogurt story," Cuomo said. "It is a big, big business in the State of New York."

He announced an Aug. 15 summit of leaders in the yogurt industry and dairy leaders to help facilitate, he said, the two groups working together to grow the yogurt industry.

"We want this business to do well," Cuomo said. "We want this business to thrive and we want this business to thrive in the State of New York."

Pepsi is committed to growing in the nutritional food categories, and dairy in particular, Nooyi said.

"Dairy products are a $500 billion industry that is expected to grow rapidly in the high single digits," Nooyi said. "We believe that here in the United States the growth potential for dairy is virtually unlimited."

The yogurt market, she said, is "largely untapped." The per-capita consumption of yogurt in the U.S. is half what it is in many other countries."

Muller said the new product is sweeter than what Theo Muller makes in Germany to meet U.S. consumer expectations and Nooyi praised the new yogurt.

"The Muller Quaker Dairy line is going to bring a whole new taste experience to America that’s not like anything that’s available in the country today," Nooyi said. "Try it and you’ll see that it’s more rich than any other yogurt you've tasted.

"It’s creamier. It’s more delicious. It doesn’t have any chalky aftertaste. It's really something you’ll enjoy eating day in and day out, maybe even three or four times a day."

Muller said the online feedback on the new product has been fun to read.

"I read on the Internet, on a blog, one consumer was writing, she tried the product two weeks ago and she is writing it is insanely delicious," Muller said. "This was really, I think, the right comment."

Both chief executives praised their new business partner as the perfect fit for how each company would like to grow.

"I have to say it was good and smart that we took the time because we found the right partner with PepsiCo and the yogurt market is booming," Muller said. "It’s still a very small market compared to other countries and we have products which are very unique and are really outstanding for the American market."

Nooyi said Pepsi has the distribution system to get the new product onto store shelves throughout the United States.

She also said the two companies share a core value in being committed to their local communities.

"One of the reasons this is a great partnership is both companies are committed to growing our businesses and both are committed to growing our local communities," Nooyi said. "When this plant is complete next year, it will be one of the largest yogurt plants in the United States. It’s going to source largely from New York State dairy farmers and other quality suppliers around this great region. The best part is it will create 186 local jobs next year."

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