The latest entrant in the competition: Illinois-based Oberweis Dairy.
Oberweis arrived in Morrisville to home deliver milk and other products to Triangle residents in mid-May, muscling into a market that includes Jackson Dairy Farm of Sampson County and Maple View Farm of Hillsborough.
Kevin Heilbronner of Wake Forest got a flyer in the mail from Oberweis offering new customers a free cooler and reduced delivery fee and decided to give it a try.
“I pay about 10 percent more than at the store, and I’m completely fine with that because it’s delivered,” Heilbronner said. “The only thing I have to do is put the cooler on the porch. … If I need to fill in, I just go to the store.”
Heilbronner’s typical order is a half-gallon of whole milk (which costs $3.99), two containers of yogurt and chocolate milk or cheese for an average of $20 per week. He was surprised to learn that Oberweis doesn’t just deliver milk — it offers ice cream, eggs, orange juice and more.
The milk’s glass bottle fascinates Heilbronner’s sons, 7 and 10, and the 7-year-old eats a tube of Oberweis squeezable yogurt for lunch every day.
Oberweis milk is not organic, but Heilbronner doesn’t mind. He said after reading a Washington Post story about big organic milk companies not living up their promises, he decided he’d rather give his kids Oberweis milk, since its farmers pledge to provide antibiotic-free milk and not to use artificial growth hormones.
Oberweis milk is “gently” pasteurized so that it’s safe but retains maximum taste and nutrients, said Oberweis CEO Joe Oberweis. The USDA has a range of pasteurization temperatures and times it allows, and Oberweis is at the lower end of the spectrum. Its milk has a shorter shelf life than ultra-pasteurized milk (heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit), which loses flavor but can last a month or more.
The northern Illinois-based dairy has been in the Oberweis family since the 1920s, and most of its milk is from small farms in Wisconsin and is bottled in Illinois. North Carolina subscribers receive milk brought in from the Midwest to the company’s Morrisville facility, just 20 minutes west of Raleigh.
Oberweis already spans much of the Midwest, from St. Louis to Milwaukee, its CEO said. Ice cream is a big part of its business in midwestern states. Oberweis has about 40 ice cream parlors and about 35 flavors, from plain vanilla to chocolate peanut butter.
Virginia Beach, Va., was Oberweis’ only southern location for eight years, until this spring when it added Richmond, Va., and Morrisville, which has about 10 employees and could grow to 50, CEO Oberweis said.
The plan is to partner with local dairy farms in the Richmond and Raleigh areas eventually, CEO Oberweis said. However, after nearly a decade in Virginia Beach, Oberweis still ships in milk from the Midwest. Oberweis milk goes from farm to front porch in three to four days.
Oberweis’ competitors in the Triangle point to that reliance on non-local cows as a tipping point in their favor.
“We’re definitely local, and [Oberweis is] not,” said Roger Nutter, owner of Maple View Farm, about 45 minutes northwest of Raleigh. “People will still buy local milk, whether it’s ours or somebody else’s.”
Maple View has been in Hillsborough since 1963 and started supplying milk for home delivery around 2007. Fresh food delivery services like Cary-based Papa Spud’s and Raleigh-based The Produce Box offer Maple View milk. Subscribers pay about $4 for a half-gallon. (In local stores, like Harris Teeter, that half-gallon would cost about $3.50, plus a “bottle charge” of $1.50; customers must bring the bottles back to the store to get the fee refunded.
Maple View’s cows are not given hormones and, like Oberweis milk, its milk is pasteurized at a lower temperature, but Nutter does not feel the need to tout his milk as “antibiotic-free.”
According to FDA standards, any milk with traces of antibiotics cannot be processed, much less sold. Cows are given antibiotics when they’re sick, Nutter said, and their milk isn’t used until the medicine is out of their systems.
Fuquay-Varina resident Rebeccah Cope gets a half-gallon of Maple View whole milk dropped off in a cooler on her porch once a week along with her Produce Box shipment. The milk reminds her of her childhood on a six-acre farm with goats, chickens and a Jersey cow in Savage, Md.
Cope and her husband make smoothies with the milk and blueberries, peaches and more that come in the weekly delivery.
“We’re eating as local and as seasonal as we can,” she said. “I’m avoiding the store, and I’m eating healthier because of it.”
Cris Jackson, who owns Jackson Dairy Farm, said he doesn’t plan on changing anything about his business because of Oberweis’ arrival. He began delivering to Raleigh homes in the 1990s and, at 78, still makes deliveries himself.
The farm has been in Jackson’s family since the 1800s, and he’s got more than 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, many of whom help out around the dairy.
Jackson’s milk is $5 per half-gallon.
“Our milk will be fresh when it’s delivered,” he said. “It hasn’t been pasteurized more than a day or two.”
Oberweis customer Heilbronner said his wife and kids love Oberweis milk and yogurt, but he’s never tasted any of their dairy products.
“I’m lactose intolerant,” he said. “If they get lactose-free ice cream, I’ll be adding that to my order.”
To learn more about milk home delivery contact the following companies.
▪ Jackson Dairy Farm: www.jacksondairyfarm.com
▪ Oberweis Dairy: www.oberweis.com/about-home-delivery
▪ Papa Spud’s: http://papaspuds.com/
▪ The Produce Box: www.theproducebox.com/
Source: News Observer