AP NEWS

Umpqua pouring more into organics

February 14, 2018 GMT

ROSEBURG — For the first time in its 87-year history, Umpqua Dairy is processing and distributing organic milk.

The dairy based in Roseburg previously had purchased organic milk from a Portland processor and sold it under the Umpqua label, said Steve Feldkamp, chief operating officer.

Now, Umpqua is buying organic milk from a Josephine County dairy, he said. The milk is shipped to Umpqua’s main production plant in Roseburg, where it is pasteurized and put in containers, Feldkamp said.

Umpqua had its manufacturing plant certified for organic food production by Organic Tilth late last year, he said.

Bottling and distributing organic milk from Southern Oregon cows is the firm’s response to growing consumer demand for organic milk, Feldkamp said.

“We want to be able to provide our customers with the quality dairy products that they want and they have come to expect from Umpqua dairy,” he said.

The organic milk market already is served in many Oregon stores by the Organic Valley cooperative chain, as well as by a number of local and regional dairies, including Alpenrose, based in Portland.

Umpqua sells relatively little organic milk, “but we hope to grow that over time as we acquire new customers and find new outlets,” Feldkamp said.

Umpqua’s move comes at a time when overall milk sales are declining, as consumers gravitate to nondairy alternatives, such as soy, almond and coconut milk.

However, while conventional milk sales as measured by weight dropped more than 8 percent between 2012 and 2016, organic milk sales increased 20 percent during the same time, according to data from the federal Department of Agriculture’s marketing service.

Umpqua’s organic milk is produced by cows that graze in pastures and eat pesticide-free grass, hay and grain, and are not treated with antibiotics, Feldkamp said.

Umpqua’s conventional milk is produced by cows that are not treated with artificial growth hormones.

Eugene-based Market of Choice is a major buyer of Umpqua Dairy organic milk, he said.

Umpqua has distribution centers in several cities, including one near the Eugene airport that supplies retailers in the Eugene and Corvallis areas.

With about 260 employees, Umpqua is the largest independent dairy in Southern Oregon.

Follow Ed Russo on Twitter @edwardrusso . Email ed.russo@registerguard.com .