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Best of NAMA 2020

Original plant and gift shop, 1985

Twelve Jersey dairymen, looking to add value to their high-protein milk, began researching the possibility of starting their own cheese plant.

Hilmar Cheese Company was founded in Hilmar, Calif., located in the heart of California's fertile Central Valley. Hired its first employee, John Jeter, who continues today as CEO and president.

Hilmar Cheese Company began making three vats of American-style cheese per day with the milk from 15 dairy farms. A small retail store was also opened.

Producing up to 20 vats of cheese per day, a third milk silo was added to accommodate more milk. The decision to add a second cheese plant was made.

Founding owners gathered to celebrate the opening of Plant 2. (See photo below)

Creating more value from the components of milk, the first whey protein plant was built. A partnership was formed with AMPC Inc. (known today as Proliant Inc.), Ames, Iowa, to research and market whey products. Sold throughout the world, whey protein is used as an ingredient in infant and sport nutrition, meat, bakery, dairy and feed products.

Hilmar Cheese Company built its first lactose plant, providing yet another product captured from milk. Sold in domestic and international markets, lactose is used as an ingredient in infant nutrition, bakery, confectionary and pharmaceutical products.

California became the top milk-producing state. Plant 1 renovations began. Hilmar Cheese extended its partnership with Proliant Inc. to market its lactose products.

Plant 1 was redesigned and began producing 500-pound barrels of cheese. Hilmar Cheese Company produced 550,000 pounds of cheese per day, making it the largest integrated single-site cheese plant in the world - an accolade that still holds true today.

Plant 2 was renovated. Hilmar Cheese Company announced plans to increase production by 70 percent over 3 1/2 years.

Hilmar Cheese Company broke ground on a new Visitor Center. Pictured (l to r) John Jeter, Donald Sherman, James Ahlem, Delton Myman, Bob Dias, Charles Ahlem and Richard Clauss.

Grand opening of the Visitor Center featuring a full-service deli, gift store and educational tour program for students, special guests and tourist groups. Massive, on-going construction projects began throughout the site.

A second lactose plant began production, nearly doubling lactose capacity, while allowing even more room for future projects. It was designed to offer flexibility in running specialized products.

330 tons of cheese were produced with the milk from 190 dairies. Hilmar Cheese Company supplied 8 percent of Cheddar and Jack cheeses made in the United States.

New microbiology lab improved testing quality and time efficiency.

Hilmar Cheese Company rolled out its newest product, NutraLac. A high-energy dairy feed, NutraLac provides nutritional benefits to dairy cows.

Cheese Plant 4 opened, featuring state-of-the-art cheese towers and packaging. Expansion benefits included increased capacity and speed, consistent quality, increased efficiency and unique packaging.

Plant 2 was updated with new cheese vats and curd belts.

A new milk receiving area began operations. Milk silos at the new station are the largest in the world, with a capacity of 200,000 gallons each. Milk receiving takes a third of the time of the old process. A self-operated wash station using polished water from the plants is offered for the milk trucks.

Hilmar Cheese Company received 180 truckloads of milk per day and produced 1 million pounds of cheese per day.

As part of its proactive approach to quality, Hilmar Cheese Company added an in-process lab, allowing rapid adjustments to be made in plant production as needed.

The company produced more than 340 million pounds of cheese, 88 million pounds of lactose and 23.5 million pounds of whey protein concentrate (WPC).

More than $19 million in milk premiums were paid to Hilmar Cheese Company producers.

Hilmar Cheese Company announced its new California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) Bonus Program for producers. The program encourages dairymen to participate in California's voluntary environmental program. To date, Hilmar Cheese Company has paid out more than $980,000 in producer bonuses under this new program.

Hilmar Cheese Company produced more than 370 million pounds of Cheddar and Jack cheese, 25 million pounds of whey protein concentrate (WPC) and 90 million pounds of lactose.

Hilmar Cheese Company currently employs more than 490 employees.

Construction of a new research and development lab is underway. Addition of this facility offers tremendous opportunities for new product and market development.

John Jeter, CEO and president; Richard Clauss; and Bernard Corkery, general manager of lactose and lactose/water nutrient, look at plans for the Research and Development Lab currently under construction at Hilmar Cheese Company. Photo courtesy of Jeff Broome Photography, Modesto, Calif.

And Beyond . . .
Continual commitment toward our most valued resources - our employees, producers and customers. AM

Note: Unless otherwise specified, all photos are courtesy of Hilmar Cheese Company and AJCA.

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