Growing up on a dairy farm near Pearl Lake, Minnesota, David Lenzmeier wondered what happened after the truck picked up the milk and left.
This question fueled Lenzmeier’s career in the dairy protein and nutritional ingredients industry. As the Managing Director of Eden Prairie-based Milk Specialties Global, Lenzmeier has plenty of answers about what happens after the milk truck leaves.
In this case, the 16 billion pounds of dairy equivalents that Milk Specialties buys each year from cheese makers in Wisconsin and other suppliers goes to processing plants in the Midwest and California, then to more than 40 countries.
Lenzmeier started and sold a protein ingredients company before joining Milk Specialties in 2008 to launch its human nutrition division. He became CEO in 2011. He was Ernst & Young Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013 for the Upper Midwest.
When Lenzmeier joined the company, it had sales of $ 80 million and three processing sites. Today, revenues are “probably 10 times” higher, and it has 11 factories and 1,000 employees, he said.
In August, Milk Specialties acquired Kay’s processing plant in Clara City, Minnesota, and the consumer brand of Kay. It also recently entered the lactoferrin market, investing in a Wisconsin plant to produce a sought-after ingredient for infant formula among other applications based on research indicating its “enhanced immune system support,” according to a statement. of the society.
“We did an incredible execution job, but I don’t think we could have imagined that the demand for protein would have reached the current level,” said Lenzmeier.
Lenzmeier’s main goal is to increase production at most of the factories, which generally operate full time.
Whey protein, milk protein and other ingredients from Milk Specialties go into products such as milk substitutes for calves and health and wellness, performance nutrition and functional food products. The company packs many of these cans of protein powder on the shelves of GNC, Costco and Walmart, Lenzmeier said.
Lenzmeier, an agribusiness and food science graduate from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls, sits on the board of directors of the Hendrickson Foundation, which supports accessible hockey programs.
The Milk Specialties management team and a private equity firm acquired the company in 2016.
Question: What do you gain with the acquisition of Kay?
A: Kay’s is an extrusion facility at its heart. Everyone knows the Rice Krispies or the Cheerios; they are extruded grain products. Many of our customers want these extruded ingredients that contain protein. It’s a new segment of the business to extrude protein into something like the Rice Krispies which are 50-60% protein. They can put that in a protein bar and maybe make it more palatable or functional.
Question: What is your acquisition strategy?
A: We did some acquisitions, but it was probably more of acquiring assets or facilities that have the capabilities that we are looking for, and then adding our kit of equipment. We use a lot of membrane technology, efficiently taking the whey coming out of the 12% protein cheese vat and purifying it to 80.90% purity. Then it can go into a protein shake, protein powder, protein bar. We also do it with milk, skimmed milk.
Question: What makes dairy specialties different?
A: We try to do a lot of custom products. We remain very focused on creating value on our ingredient side. We see ourselves as a brand partner. We need to bring innovation to the brands we supply, to help them be competitive and grow.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His email is [email protected]