Blue Mounds, Wis.-based Dairyfood USA recently broke ground on a 17,000-square-foot, $5 million addition to its existing facility. The company, which manufactures extended shelf life cheese, plans to move all of its processing equipment into the new space.

Dairyfood primarily produces shelf-stable specialty cheese spreads, bars, wedges and naturally smoked cheeses. These find their way into the foodservice sector, in gift packs, on airlines and more. The company also manufactures private label products for snack and retail companies.

President Dan Culligan told a Wisconsin State Journal reporter that food safety and an opportunity to expand product lines were the biggest reasons for the expansion.

“When you’re dealing with some of the largest food retailers in the world, food safety is paramount,” he added. “This addition will allow us to meet or exceed any expectations of our customers.”

It doesn’t seem as though the company’s customers are anything but pleased, however. Fiscal year 2013 revenues are up 18 percent on the backs of significant production increases of its spreads and smoked cheeses, Culligan said; sales of its smoked gouda are up 22 percent. He would like to be able to add a few more jobs to Dairyfood USA’s 125 full-time employees and 50 seasonal workers; the construction should be completed by February. 

This expansion means more milk from Wisconsin dairy farms will find a home, but there’s an international twist to this story: The company is owned by the Artax Group, an Austrian holding company. And the market for its products is changing, too. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has announced an increase in the value of Wisconsin’s dairy exports for the first half of 2013, as well as an increase in overall exports compared to the first six months of 2012. Dairy export value increased 23 percent in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, totaling $171 million. Wisconsin now ranks fourth nationwide in terms of the value of dairy exports.

“The growth in our dairy industry is due to the hard work of the farmers and processors who produce quality and safe dairy products,” Walker said. “Wisconsin is quickly growing beyond being America’s Dairy Land. Our agriculture industry continues to be a strong cornerstone of our state’s economy, and the overall increase of Wisconsin exports is good for our economy and the hardworking employees who help produce great products.” 

Dairy-related products were Wisconsin’s most valuable agricultural export during the first half of 2013; Canada, China and Mexico were the state’s top agricultural export destinations during that period. Overall, Wisconsin exported $1.6 billion worth of agricultural products to 132 countries in the first half of this year, an increase of nearly 10 percent over the first half of last year. In total, exports increased 0.35 percent, and Wisconsin now ranks 13th overall for agricultural exports, up from 14th for the same period last year.