The dairy industry is joining the dairy-free craze.
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A sign at a Montreal Saputo plant is shown on Jan.13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Canadian dairy giant Saputo Inc. is targeting an acquisition of a plant-based milk business in North America by the end of the year to capture some of the growth driven by a shift toward less or no dairy for heath and environmental reasons.

Almond, soy and oat beverages are the main products the Montreal-based company will be looking at, Chief Executive Officer Lino Saputo Jr. said in a telephone interview. He is aiming for a deal “within this calendar year.”

Saputo has milk operations around the world except for New Zealand, Brazil, Chile, Holland and Denmark. The CEO said his company continues to look at other deal opportunities in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Oceania.

The dairy company is also exporting products from different geographic locations to China. With the spread of coronavirus, it expects some delays to unload at Chinese ports, but “right now, the order has not been canceled.”

Saputo expects milk consumption to decline in the Asian country in the short term. However, the CEO said “once the virus is behind us, consumers will get back to the natural consumption patterns,” and there will be “zero impact” on the company’s earnings.

The company announced closures of two of its Canadian plants in a statement accompanying third-quarter results that beat estimates. Still, it reiterated that it is a dairy focused organization despite showing interest in value-added dairy alternatives.

Wisconsin dairies were among National Mastitis Council’s “cream of the crop” for producing quality milk during its Feb. 2 National Dairy Quality Awards program.

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