Yogurt tops WhiteWave growth plan

BROOMFIELD — Fruity and Creamy soy-based yogurt is coming soon to a grocery store refrigerator case near you, courtesy of WhiteWave Food Co.

The yogurt with the Alpro brand name in Europe will be labeled with the Silk moniker in the United States, said WhiteWave’s president Blaine McPeak in a recent earnings call with analysts.

Silk is the brand name for almond milk, soy milk and other plant-based beverages at Broomfield-based WhiteWave (NYSE: WWAV), as well as for its new, branded Fruit & Protein beverages.

Fruity and Creamy yogurt’s market share is “in the high teens” in Europe, Gregg Engles, WhiteWave’s chief executive officer, said in the call. WhiteWave bought the Alpro brand in June 2011 for about $455 million from Vandemoortele Group in Gent, Belgium.

“There is outstanding potential in this arena,” Engles said. “We’re going to leverage our know-how in the plant-based yogurt business in the United States.”

Fruity and Creamy yogurt is one of several products WhiteWave plans to launch in coming months, McPeak said.

Consumers will get a chance to taste a 100-calorie iced coffee beverage from WhiteWave’s International Delight brand as well as a soy latte beverage, McPeak said, and a sugar-free, caramel creamer from International Delight will come out in January. WhiteWave also has plans to work with former parent Dean Foods Co. on a single-serving TruMoo chocolate milk product, he said.

Following WhiteWave’s $391 million initial public offering in October, the company may go on a buying spree next, based on comments from Engles and talk in the industry. In the earnings call, Engles highlighted the company’s $1.3 billion credit facility created as a result of the public offering.

Paying off debt will help WhiteWave, said Steve Hoffman, owner of Compass Natural LLC in Boulder, an industry marketing and media company.

“The idea of taking care of a significant amount of debt certainly puts WhiteWave Foods in a stronger financial position,” Hoffman said.

Engles did not respond to requests for comment before the Boulder County Business Report’s deadline. He left his role as chief executive of Dean Foods in Dallas (NYSE: DF) to head WhiteWave, although he remains Dean’s chairman.

Dean continues to own 86.7 percent of WhiteWave’s stock and retain 98.5 percent of voting power. In addition to coffee creamer and Silk soy milk products, WhiteWave produces Horizon Organic milk and Land O’ Lakes dairy products.

In a related move, WhiteWave will get $60 million as part of Dean’s sale of its Morningstar Foods division to Montreal-based Saputo Inc., Dean said in a press statement on Monday, Dec 3.

WhiteWave’s manufacturing facilities are in Jacksonville, Florida; Bridgeton, New Jersey; Dallas; City of Industry, California; and Mount Crawford, Virginia; according to company spokeswoman Molly Keveney.

The year-old, $85 million Dallas plant has two packaging lines running with plans to ramp up to six lines in 2013, Engles said in the earnings call.

Boulder entrepreneur Steve Demos founded WhiteWave in Boulder in 1977. Dean Foods acquired the company in 2002. WhiteWave has 1,727 employees, 465 of them in Broomfield, according to Keveney.

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