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FILE PHOTO: Cheese makers prepare curds for Parmesan cheese at 4 Madonne Caseificio dell'Emilia dairy cooperative in Modena, Italy, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo
By Mark Reilly  – Managing Editor, Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal

Beth Fordwho took over as CEO of Land O’Lakes Inc. last summer, faces a particularly tough task: Build sales at a dairy cooperative when the dairy industry is facing challenges ranging from plant-based milk alternatives to trade fights that have hurt exports.

But The Wall Street Journal reports that so far, Land O’Lakes and Ford have risen to the challenge. Earnings slipped in the first three fiscal quarters of 2018, but revenue was up and was on pace to outperform 2017.

In an interview, Ford talks about how the company is continuing to innovate on what are pretty basic food items. The company launched a squeezable butter last year aimed at parents — who can give their kids butter without worrying that the whole stick will end up on the floor — and people who “don’t like touching their butter,” she said. Development of that product took several years.

The company, which also makes commercial ingredients like the cheese powder for Cheetos, has also worked on cutting sodium content for its business customers. “Staying with the same product portfolio is not going to bring you to the next step on the journey,” she said.

Global Dairy Trade Event #306 concluded with the aggregate down 2.9%. Cheddar cheese was down 0.1%. Whole Milk Powder was 4.9% lower. Skim Milk Powder fell 0.6%. Butter dropped 1.0%

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