August 13, 2016

Organic trend boosts HP Hood

Provided Photo

The interior of HP Hood’s plant in Barre is shown.

BARRE — Along with adding new jobs and expanding the facility, HP Hood’s plant in Barre recently became Organic Valley’s only processor in New England for the national cooperative’s organic milk.

Along with this boost in production, HP Hood added 7,000 square feet to its now 31,000-square-foot Barre facility and added 10 jobs as of late March. That gives the company a total of 85 employees working in that building today.

Local and national officials with Hood say this latest addition to the Barre operation serves to strengthen the brand, given the ongoing trend toward organic products. The 10 new positions were all connected to the addition of processing the Organic Valley milk at the facility.

However, Hood officials were quick to note that Organic Valley, a farmer-owned cooperative that has collaborated with Hood for years, still fully runs and operates their business and brand, independently.

Jerry Booth, manager of the Barre plant, has been with Hood for 19 years, and he’s the only member of the well-known Booth Bros. family who still works in the company — HP Hood bought Booth Bros. in 1997.

“We were very fortunate to have this brought on board,” Booth said of the recent announcement.

Booth’s father Norman and his uncle Marcell started the Booth Bros. business in 1946, and the second generation got involved in the 1970s.

Given the growth of the organic market in the U.S., Jerry Booth expected this recent change to have a positive impact on the two brands. That’s in spite of the fact that many newer dairy products have hit the shelves in stores in recent history. The message is that milk remains a strong, important product in today’s world, as it has for years.

“Milk is good, milk is strong, and that’s what we’re trying to do with the promotion of both the Hood and the Booth brands here in Vermont,” Booth said.

Lynne Bohan, Hood’s vice president of communications and government affairs, said the company and Organic Valley have a longstanding “co-packing partnership.” This partnership started in 2009.

“Basically, what this means is the (Barre) facility is packaging product for Organic Valley’s brand, but they still own and manage their brand and their business,” Bohan said.

For Hood, she said the new organic milk processing in Barre will result in “more capacity, more production” and more purchasing of milk in that region.

Bohan added that Hood’s business in Barre has been “strong in general,” but she also noted the wider trend in the market, of people consuming less milk overall.

“So any additional volume is welcome volume, in our manufacturing facility,” she said.

Jim Walsh, executive vice president of sales for HP Hood, said the co-packing partnership with Organic Valley has seen consistent growth since that relationship started in 2009.

“This partnership has allowed us to optimize our business model, as we are able to deliver to both Organic Valley and Hood customers,” Walsh said in an email.

He also noted, “The organic platform is on-trend in households with children.”

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