BRATTLEBORO -- That's a lot of yogurt.
Since January, Commonwealth Dairy has been producing 100,000 cases of packaged yogurt per week, exceeding expectations in the business plan it put into effect less than two years ago.
"When we first started, we thought we would have 50 employees in five years," said Tom Moffitt, Commonwealth Dairy's President and CEO. "We now have 110 employees in under two years."
And now the dairy will be adding up to another 34 employees by mid-2013.
On Thursday, Moffitt announced a $12-million expansion that will add 23,000 square feet to the facility to house a new processing line, new warehouse space, a new filling machine, fermentation tanks, wastewater treatment improvements and new whey processing and packaging equipment.
"We're making as much Greek yogurt as we can in the current format," said Moffitt.
The new processing line will be used solely for packaging yogurt cups for children, he said.
"Our existing customers are looking for more packaging opportunities."
Due to confidentiality, Commonwealth cannot reveal who its clients are, said Moffitt, "But it's a testament to our quality that they are coming to us and asking for new things."
The new equipment will add about 10 percent to its output and increase its milk usage by 10 percent.
On Thursday, Gov. Peter Shumlin visited the plant, which began producing yogurt in March of 2011.
"Commonwealth's rapid growth is welcome news in the Brattleboro area and to the entire state," said Shumlin. "I am particularly pleased that this company produces a value-added dairy product that supports Vermont farmers and our agricultural community."
In addition to producing Greek yogurt for its many clients, Commonwealth Dairy also produces its own branded product -- Green Mountain Creamery, which can be found in select stores in the tri-state region.
Ben Johnson, Commonwealth's CFO, thanked U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Vermont's Congressional delegation for their help in getting the initial plant built, as well as representatives of the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program for assistance with the latest round of financing.
"Last but not least, we have a terrific workforce here in Brattleboro, and we would like to recognize the hard-working employees of the Commonwealth Dairy for helping us grow," Johnson stated in the press release.
Commonwealth Dairy, LLC is a joint venture between Ehrmann USA Holding's, a U.S. subsidiary of Ehrmann AG, and Commonwealth Yogurt.
Its principal owners are Moffitt and Johnson. The company manufactures private label, co-pack and branded class II dairy products, which are primarily yogurt products.
The project is expected to be completed by April, 2013.
In March 2011, Commonwealth opened its 39,000-square-foot facility in the Delta Campus on Paul's Road in Brattleboro. Currently, it uses 110 million pounds of milk to produce 70 million pounds of yogurt a year.