Dean Foods, the country’s largest dairy producer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Tuesday, our news partner Springfield News-Sun reported.
“It’s business as usual” for the company and its brands, including Reiter, Dean Foods spokeswoman Anne Divjak said in an email.
The filing will allow Dean Foods to remain operational, reorganize its debt and continue to fund pensions.
“Products from the Dean Foods family of brands, including Reiter Dairy, will continue to be available where consumers usually shop,” she said. “Any future decisions regarding our plants will be based, as always, on market conditions and the needs of the business.”
There are nearly 200 people employed at Reiter’s Springfield plant on Commerce Circle, she said.
Tom Franzen, Springfield’s director of economic development, said Reiter is one of the strongest employers in the area’s food sector. He said company officials told him the Springfield plant would continue to operate and they do not anticipate any major changes at this time.
Food production plays a significant role in Clark County’s economy. Along with Reiter, Springfield is also the home of Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc., Woeber’s Mustard and Gordon Food Services.
Reiter was founded in Akron in 1933 and acquired more than 20 dairies across northern Ohio in the 1950s and 1960s. The company eventually expanded into producing refrigerated and frozen food products.
The company expanded to southern Ohio when it acquired a milk plant and distribution center in Springfield.
Sales for cow’s milk has declined over the past years as more consumers are seeking less sugary or plant-based alternatives.
According to CNN, sales for cow’s milk in the past 52 weeks, ending on Oct. 26, was about $12 billion. That is a decline from the $15 billion reported during a similar period in 2015.
Nationally, a decrease in milk consumption has lead to a 7% decrease in sales for Dean Foods in the first half of the year.
The Dallas-based company also saw a 14% drop in profits and its stock has lost 80% of its value this year, CNN reported Tuesday.
Eric Beringause, Dean Foods president and CEO, issued a statement Tuesday: “Despite our best efforts to make our business more agile and cost-efficient, we continue to be impacted by a challenging operating environment marked by continuing declines in consumer milk consumption.
“Importantly, we are continuing to provide customers with an uninterrupted supply of high-quality dairy products, as well as supporting our dairy suppliers and other partners,” he said.
Dean Foods also announced that it may sell all its assets to the Dairy Farmers of America, a cooperative owned by thousands of farmers.
Dean Foods has approximately 15,000 employees and operates dozens of dairy processing facilities across the country.