The Yogurt Industry Hits Its Stride

April 27, 2017

New York State is a yogurt industry leader — now making more Greek yogurt than Greece — with a production rise that matches a growing national appetite for the product. That craving is calculable: From 2005-2015, per capita yogurt consumption nationwide increased by roughly 41 percent.

New York’s yogurt companies, including Dannon and Fage USA, are a mix of homegrown producers and others that launched elsewhere in the world before establishing a presence here. Alpina Foods, started by two Swiss entrepreneurs in the 1940s, has 10 industrial facilities worldwide, including one in Batavia, N.Y. A third-generation New York State dairy farmer started Sunrise Family Farms, while Agrana Fruit opened a plant Upstate in 2014. Chobani’s founder left a dairy farm in Turkey to start his business in the Southern Tier.                             

Yogurt producers and dairies may differ in origin, size or products, but they’re united by a belief that New York is a great place to make yogurt. Here’s a deeper dive, into some of the companies that are growing the state’s yogurt culture.

A Snack Staple Grows

Dannon, a U.S. subsidiary of the France-based global food and beverage company Danone, has been headquartered in the Westchester County city of White Plains, in the Mid-Hudson Region, for more than 25 years. Dannon got its New York start back in 1942, when Daniel Carasso, son of Danone’s founder, came to New York City and opened a shop in the Bronx, before expanding into a plant on Long Island as sales rose.

“In addition to being a great region of the state,” Michael Neuwirth, Dannon’s Senior Director of Public Relations says of the company’s Westchester background, “the proximity to New York City makes it convenient to work with business operating partners.” In 2018 Dannon will move its White Plains offices closer to downtown, within walking distance of the city center.

While not a manufacturing site, in 2011 the White Plains headquarters expanded with a new Discovery and Innovation Center that brought R&D in closer proximity to the rest of the company’s business headquarters in New York. That facility is equipped with a Sensory & Consumer Insights Lab, which has worked on improving the nutrition of products like a kids-focused yogurt, which reduced its sugar by 25 percent. That’s a part of company’s healthy food mission Neuwirth says, citing Dannon’s commitment to Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-profit group working with the private sector to reduce childhood obesity.

As a food category, yogurt’s flexibility makes it very satisfying, Neuwirth says. “Most people may not think of yogurt as flexible, but we make more than 200 different types and flavors to satisfy a very diverse base of fans, some of which are looking to yogurt to help them manage their weight or to be a lean source of protein or a versatile cooking ingredient.”

Alpina Comes to Batavia

In 2009, six decades after the company started in Bogota, Colombia, and expanded, Alpina Colombia focuses on dairy and juice products, and boasts more than $700 million in annual revenue. By 2012, Alpina Foods had expanded north with a plant in Batavia, in Western New York, where it has found a supportive business climate at both the state and local level.

In 2012, that $20 million manufacturing facility opened in Genesee County, and “is within a day’s drive of more than 25 percent of the U.S. population,” Salim Rayes, General Manager of Alpina’s North American business, says. The plant’s location also lends itself to working with area schools including Cornell University and the Rochester Institute of Technology, which support Alpina with research and product development, as well as a pool of talent. “The Batavia plant will play a major role in the growth and development of the company,” Rayes underscores.  

Agrana Crafts Fruit

Yogurt brands have a flavorful relationship with fruit, and Agrana Fruit has a prominent global role with 5,000 employees who prepare fresh fruit for use in yogurt and dairy products. Agrana, which maintains a network of 24 fruit preparation sites worldwide, opened its fourth U.S. plant in the Central New York town of Lysander in 2014, Marketing Manager Felicia Francisco says. To get a broad taste of the company’s output, she adds that the fruit Agrana produces across its sites is contained in “every third cup of yogurt worldwide.”

The company’s Lysander location is a 107,000-square-foot LEED-certified plant with a production capacity of more than 100 million pounds.

“Since our first production run in March of 2014 we’ve already expanded our plant,” Francisco details. Employees are invited to share ideas on improving production processes, cost-saving measures and sustainability through the company’s Fruitful Idea Sharing (FIS) program. “Our employees are our most valuable assets,” Francisco says, highlighting that the region has a valuable skilled workforce.

Francisco says that the area’s robust dairy presence has enabled Agrana’s industry-university partnership with one of the state’s top-tier educational institutions, Cornell University, as a member of the Cornell Institute of Food Systems. “Access to the top academic minds within our industry has been game-changing,” she adds, enabling the company to network, participate in seminars and consult professors. 

Agrana’s location also is ideal. “We can literally jump in the car and be at one of our customers in 90 minutes, and we open our plant to them.” Francisco says the company is optimistic about the yogurt industry’s future and its continued growth in New York State — a view that is “driven by the amazing Lysander community that has been so welcoming, as well as the support we’ve received from regional organizations like the MACNY (Manufacturers Association of Central New York),” a regional employer group that represents many area companies. Looking forward, Agrana will continue to work with customers in New York, the Northeast and Canada.


Sunrise Focuses on Local

Decades of dairy farming support the strength of Sunrise Family Farms in Upstate New York’s yogurt industry in the Southern Tier. “We believe that the secret to making the best dairy products is using pure ingredients and keeping it simple,” explains founder and third-generation dairy farmer Dave Evans, adding that Norwich-based Sunrise is a proud local employer, with roots in the regional business community. “We benefit from our town’s proximity to the Albany, New York City and Boston markets,” he says.

Sunrise produces yogurt and cultured milk products, and manufactures yogurt for many New York State companies. It also partners with several farms and companies, including Five Acre Farms, a Brooklyn-based company that cultivates a network of locally produced and sourced (within a 275-mile radius) products, and is focused on dairy. Five Acre Farms searches for great farmers who employ sustainable business practices, and then works to bring those farmers’ local products to restaurants, grocery stores and other food outlets.

“When we first set out to develop our line of cultured dairy products more than three years ago, we turned to the team at Sunrise. They know how to work closely with companies to recipe test and launch new dairy items keeping it simple,” says Dan Horan, Founder & CEO of Five Acre Farms.

Sunrise has increased the number of cultured dairy products it makes for Five Acre Farms since that partnership began in 2015 to include additional flavors and varieties. “Our relationship with Five Acre Farms has added to our bottom line, and the premium it pays for milk has helped strengthen our partner farms,” Evans says.

“As a mid-size business, we have the flexibility needed to work with start-ups and growing companies,” Evans says of the Sunrise philosophy. To that end, Sunrise also works with 20 smaller family dairy farms, all located in Chenango County and within 30 miles of Norwich. About half of those are Amish-owned, Evans notes, with between 12 and 30 cows. One of the larger farms they use, with 80 cows, is organic. Those farms, and products, include: Yasso (bulk Greek yogurt) and Evolve (kefir). In addition to its Norwich plant, Sunrise maintains a supply and product warehouse in Greene, also in Chenango County, that might also enable future production expansion.

Greek Yogurt Goes Big

In the just the past decade, New York State has become home to Chobani and Fage, industry leaders in Greek yogurt production. In 2005, Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya, who grew up in a dairy-farming family in eastern Turkey, came to New York to study at SUNY Albany, and later decided to buy a 130-year-old plant in New Berlin’s farmland in the Southern Tier of New York. He wanted to start a Greek yogurt company in line with his family’s ideals. By 2007, Chobani was up and running — producing authentic strained Greek yogurt with all-natural, non-GMO ingredients, free from preservatives and artificial sweeteners. “We were founded on the belief that people have great taste — they just need great options,” says Jeff Genung, Chobani’s Senior Manager of Corporate Communications.

Chobani’s New Berlin plant has expanded from its original footprint, and is the basis of Chobani’s East Coast operations; they also have plants in Twin Falls, Idaho, and South Victoria, Australia. “Since the beginning, we’ve been committed to sourcing the freshest milk possible from hundreds of dairy farmers in our local communities,” Genung says. For Chobani, that production ethos extends to a values-driven approach across the company, including sharing a financial stake in the company with employees, the hiring of refugees and immigrants, and giving back to the communities where they live and work.

Genung also says that the Southern Tier has provided a “dedicated, passionate workforce that’s risen to the challenge time and again,” explaining that the company has been able to foster a close-knit community in each of its New York hubs in Norwich, New Berlin and New York City, with nearly 1,000 employees across the state.

“Chobani has always been a different kind of food company, putting people first. In less than 10 years, Chobani has become a role model for innovation and leadership. At our very core, we believe in the transformative power of business — and food — to do good.”

Yogurt for All

New York State’s thriving yogurt industry, and work with farms across the state, coincides with a renewed focus on consumer health, and use of quality locally produced and environmentally responsible ingredients. Producers from Sunrise to Chobani are both innovating and adhering to high production standards. Fage USA has grown its business since opening a plant in Johnstown, in the Mohawk Valley, in 2005.

The state’s ongoing commitment to the yogurt industry includes industry gatherings, support for renewable energy in agriculture and for workforce development initiatives such as the dairy processing center at SUNY Cobleskill, which offers hands-on experience toward a degree.

At Sunrise Family Farms in Norwich, farmer Dave Evans outlines goals that mirror some of the core ingredients in yogurt’s success, both in New York and elsewhere: “We founded Sunrise Family Farms with three goals in mind — preserving family farms, supporting other people involved in local agriculture and producing a quality product at a fair price.” That kind of focus on quality and product is propelling the New York State yogurt industry, and its many producers, forward.

Empire State Development Announces RFEI for 330 Acres at Former Wassaic Developmental Center Site

Redevelopment Proposals Are Due On Wednesday, May 31st

March 28, 2017

Empire State Development (ESD) today issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) seeking proposals for the disposition and redevelopment of the remaining portion of the former Wassaic Developmental Center, also known as the Wassaic Campus of the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Services Office.

“Located near growing tech and creative sectors, abundant transit access and vibrant cultural resources, the Wassaic Campus has the potential to generate exciting economic opportunities for the Harlem Valley,” said ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky. “We are looking for creative proposals that maximize community goals and strengthen the Harlem Valley’s local economy.”

As part of the State’s ongoing initiative to support individuals with developmental disabilities within the community, the residential portion of the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Services Office campus was closed in 2014. The campus is currently used for administrative functions of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, occupying four buildings on the Site as well as the on-site power plant.

The Site that is the subject of the RFEI consists of approximately 330 acres, including nine acres of ground floor area (constituting approximately 740,000 built square feet).

The goal of this RFEI is to solicit ideas that will advance public policy goals and maximize economic benefits to the Harlem Valley and the State of New York. ESD will use responses and recommendations generated by the RFEI to inform a planned Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

Proposals should strive to address the following development objectives:

  • Enhance the Site as an economic engine for the Harlem Valley region and New York State;
  • Enhance and complement the area’s existing resources and amenities;
  • Capitalize on the proximity of mass transit located on the Site by creating new workforce housing opportunities and/or jobs for New Yorkers;
  • Maximize incorporation of green building and sustainable design practices;
  • Maximize economic benefit to the State while minimizing the State’s economic and environmental risk; and
  • Feature meaningful participation of Minority Owned Business Enterprises, Women Owned Business Enterprises and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned-Businesses, per Articles 15-A and 17-B of the New York State Executive Law.

Responses are due by 12 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31, 2017. An optional site visit is scheduled for Friday, April 21, 2017. Respondents are not required to attend; however, if they wish to participate, they must RSVP to [email protected].

The RFEI and additional information is available on the Empire State Development website here.

About Empire State Development
Empire State Development (ESD) is New York’s chief economic development agency ( The mission of ESD is to promote a vigorous and growing economy, encourage the creation of new job and economic opportunities, increase revenues to the State and its municipalities, and achieve stable and diversified local economies. Through the use of loans, grants, tax credits and other forms of financial assistance, ESD strives to enhance private business investment and growth to spur job creation and support prosperous communities across New York State. ESD is also the primary administrative agency overseeing Governor Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Councils and the marketing of “I LOVE NEW YORK,” the State’s iconic tourism brand. For more information on Regional Councils and Empire State Development, visit  and

Amy Varghese (ESD) | [email protected] | (212) 803-3740
ESD Press Office | [email protected] | (800) 260-7313

The Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council Announces Equilibrium Brewery Ribbon-Cutting in Middletown

December 16, 2016

2014 Priority Project is Distributing Craft Beer Throughout New York State

The Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (MHREDC) today announced the ribbon-cutting of the Equilibrium Brewery in a former meat-packing facility in downtown Middletown. The craft brewery has already begun distribution throughout New York State. Equilibrium Brewery was named a Priority Project by the MHREDC in 2014.

“The Equilibrium Brewery revived a vacant building to make great local beer in Downtown Middletown, bringing economic activity back to this vital urban center,” said MHREDC Co-Chair Dennis Murray, President Emeritus at Marist College. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s Regional Council Initiative, local communities are able to steer their economic development in directions that benefit their own goals and aspirations.”

“Downtown Middletown is a perfect match for us,” said Ricardo Petroni, Founder and CEO of Equilibrium Brewery. “It was clear from the start how the brewery could work synergistically with the ongoing revitalization efforts in a beneficial way. Moreover, MHREDC supported this initiative from the beginning, providing the much needed push to make this project a reality.”

“Supporting the Equilibrium Brewery was an easy decision for the MHREDC, because it fit so well with our goal of developing downtowns as places to live, work and play,” said MHREDC Co-Chair Leonard S. Schleifer, President & CEO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. “By putting economic development decisions in local hands, the REDC Initiative has allowed small businesses, like Equilibrium Brewery, to flourish throughout the Mid-Hudson Region.”

Equilibrium Brewery creates beverages for craft beer enthusiasts and is focused mainly on producing beers for distribution, but the building will also feature a tasting room and a restaurant which they expect to open to the public in early 2017. Equilibrium beers are available in craft beverage stores and bars in Long Island, New York City, the Mid-Hudson Region, and the Capital Region. Though the company only began distribution this fall, it already has more than 11,000 “Likes” on Facebook.

The building is located in downtown Middletown, a distressed area of Orange County and the winner of Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative earlier this year. By adding to the downtown entertainment area and promoting local tourism, the project supports the City of Middletown’s Business Improvement District’s (BID) goals of making the downtown area a more desirable place for investment and opportunity. 

To encourage Equilibrium Brewery to launch its manufacturing operations in New York State, the MHREDC awarded it a $204,000 Regional Council Capital Grant in Round IV of the Regional Council Initiative. Equilibrium will create seven jobs and invested more than $1 million to acquire, rehabilitate, and outfit its building with the necessary brewing and canning equipment.

About Equilibrium Brewery
Equilibrium Brewery is the culmination of living a good life, creating bonds, sharing stories over great beers, experiences both local and abroad, and over a decade studying environmental engineering at MIT. These are things worth sharing.
Equilibrium Brewery applies scientific principles and a passion for craft brewing to balance drinkability and massive flavor.  

About the Regional Economic Development Councils
The Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative is a key component of Governor Cuomo's approach to State investment and economic development. In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The Councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. The Regional Councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom up approach and establishing a competitive process for State resources. 

After six rounds of the REDC process, more than $4.6 billion has been awarded to more than 5,200 job creation and community development projects consistent with each regions strategic plans, projecting to create and retain more than 210,000 jobs. For more information on the Regional Councils, visit


Jonah Bruno (ESD) | [email protected] | (212) 803-3740

ESD Press Office | [email protected] | (800) 260-7313


Mid-Hudson REDC Awarded $83.3 Million to Support 105 Projects

MHREDC Named Top Performer In Round VI Of Governor Cuomo’s Regional Council Initiative

December 12, 2016

As part of Round VI of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative, the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council (MHREDC) was recently named a “Top Performer” and awarded $83.3 million to support 105 projects.  The announcement, which supports projects in Westchester, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties, was made Thursday, December 8, in Albany. Through six rounds of the REDC competition, the Mid-Hudson REDC has delivered $475.9 million for 469 projects.            

“We were gratified to learn that the Mid-Hudson had been named a top-performer in REDC Round 6, and that so many of our priority projects would move forward as a result of targeted State investment,” said Mid-Hudson REDC Co-chairs Leonard S. Schleifer, MD, Ph.D., Founder, President and CEO of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Dennis Murray, President Emeritus and Professor of Public Policy at Marist College. “Our Council worked hard to develop a robust pipeline of strategy-aligned projects in industries including advanced manufacturing, food & beverage, and tourism, and New York State obviously took our recommendations very seriously. As these projects move forward, we are confident that they will have a transformational impact on our economy, create thousands of jobs, spur additional investment in our downtowns, and ensure that the Mid-Hudson Region remains a great place to live, work, and play.”

The REDC process has transformed government’s approach to economic development in New York State, creating a statewide framework for bottom-up, regional economic growth and streamlining the state funding application process. Since 2011, the first year of the initiative, over $4.6 billion has been awarded to more than 5,200 projects that are projected to create and retain more than 210,000 jobs statewide.

On Thursday, more than $700 million in economic and community development funding was awarded through Round VI of the REDC initiative.

During Round VI, members from the 10 Regional Councils traveled to Albany to make in-person presentations of their proposals to the Strategic Implementation Assessment Team (SIAT). Over the course of two days, the SIAT, which is composed of state agency commissioners and policy experts, heard from each of the Regional Councils directly, reviewed the progress being made on projects that have previously received state funding, and assessed the regions’ strategic plan implementations and proposals for funding in 2016.

This year, all 10 REDCs competed for designation as a “Top Performer.” As a Top Performer, the Mid-Hudson REDC will receive up to $25 million in Empire State Development grant funding – as part of the overall award of $83.3 million – to support priority projects. Additionally, each region is eligible for up to $15 million in Excelsior Jobs Program tax credits to help attract and grow businesses in the region.

The following Mid-Hudson projects are highlights of priority projects awarded funding in Round Six:

$3 Million to support LEGOLAND – Orange County
LEGOLAND will consist of a theme park and resort in the Town of Goshen. The park will include rides and attractions, an aquarium, theaters, educational facilities, restaurants, a hotel and various facilities including offices and staff areas as well as associated parking and drainage facilities. Educational facilities and programs are also included to attract strong school visitation.

$2.25 Million to support Star Kay White’s expansion of manufacturing operations – Orange County
Star Kay White, a 126 year old New York State company, is building a new manufacturing facility in the Warwick Valley Office and Technology Park. The project will upgrade their infrastructure, technology and equipment, making their manufacturing processes more efficient and better able to meet their customer's needs.

$1 Million to support RUPCO's Stockade Works Project in Kingston – Ulster County
RUPCO, Inc.'s planned redevelopment of a defunct factory in Kingston, Ulster County, will allow the site to be repurposed for an anchor tenant in the film and television industry. Included will be training space for film and TV production; a post-production studio, and a maker's space for entrepreneurs.

$750,000 to support the Star Estate Distillery in West Park – Ulster County
The Star Estate Development Group will open an environmentally friendly craft distillery, boutique hotel/restaurant, event space and small farm in West Park, NY. The Star Estate will be located on an iconic 27-acre Hudson Riverfront property, with both land and water access that has been used as a monastery and school for the past 150 years.

$500,000 to support the Sing Sing Prison Museum – Westchester County
The Sing Sing Historic Prison Museum will build a first-rate educational and historical museum at the site of the existing operating correctional facility, using the 1936 Prison Power House to house the museum, with access to the original 1825 Cellblock.

$2.4 Million to support Phase 4 of the Sawmill River Daylighting – Westchester County
The City of Yonkers is revitalizing a low-income, distressed area in the heart of the city’s downtown and unearthing the Sawmill River. Phase 4 will daylight the river at a parking lot known as Chicken Island and include a five-acre redevelopment site envisioned partly as a government center.

$2 Million to support the Poughkeepsie Landing Waterfront Redevelopment – Dutchess County
Poughkeepsie Waterfront Development LLC (PWD) is redeveloping a 14-acre parcel along the southern Hudson River waterfront in the City of Poughkeepsie. The mixed-use development will include apartments, shops, restaurants, a marina, a Hudson River Interpretive Center, and a connection to the Dutchess Rail Trail.

$1 Million for Urban Electric Power’s Energy Storage Systems Manufacturing Facility – Rockland County
Urban Electric Power builds rechargeable, non-toxic manganese dioxide batteries and will create 76 jobs in an expanded manufacturing facility at the former Pfizer Campus in Pearl River. UEP uses battery technology, patented by the CUNY Energy Institute, through an exclusive license. The batteries it manufactures do not contain lead or other heavy metals, and are suited for solar support and reliable power back-up.

A full list of the 2016 REDC awards is available at

About the Regional Economic Development Councils
The Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) initiative is a key component of Governor Cuomo's approach to State investment and economic development. In 2011, Governor Cuomo established 10 Regional Councils to develop long-term strategic plans for economic growth for their regions. The Councils are public-private partnerships made up of local experts and stakeholders from business, academia, local government, and non-governmental organizations. The Regional Councils have redefined the way New York invests in jobs and economic growth by putting in place a community-based, bottom up approach and establishing a competitive process for State resources.

After six rounds of the REDC process, more than $4.6 billion has been awarded to more than 5,200 job creation and community development projects consistent with each regions strategic plans, projecting to create and retain more than 210,000 jobs. For more information on the Regional Councils, visit

Jonah Bruno | [email protected] | (212) 803-3740
ESD Press Office | [email protected] | (800) 260-7313

Summer of Jobs in New York State

Growth continues in numbers of NYS private sector jobs and business expansions

This summer has been hotter than ever in New York, with many businesses announcing their plans to locate or grow here as record-setting job numbers continue to climb. From beets to sporting goods, a host of nationally known brands are making their home here, at a time when the state’s private sector job count has reached a record high of almost 8 million, and unemployment is below the national rate.  The state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils continue to drive economic development in a strategic way and, with the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, we’re seeing exciting projects and progress around the state. Here are some highlights of announcements made during the warm-weather months:

Warby Parker:  Just after summer’s official launch in June, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced  the Manhattan-based affordable designer eyewear company will open an optical lab in Sloatsburg, Rockland County, that will create 128 jobs over the next five years.  The lab, the first fully owned by Warby Parker and the company’s first expansion into the Mid-Hudson region, will be home to glasses assembly and prescription lens finishing. In addition to its Rockland expansion, Warby Parker will also retain more than 250 jobs at its New York City headquarters and 130 jobs at its New York retail locations.

DICK’S Sporting Goods Inc.:  In July, the Binghamton-born national sporting goods retailer announced that it will invest $100 million to build a 650,000-square-foot regional distribution facility at the Broome County Corporate Park in the Southern Tier town of Conklin.  The investment will create 466 full-time jobs over the next five years, with a construction completion date of early 2018. The move is aligned with Southern Tier Soaring, the region’s comprehensive plan for economic growth.   

GEICO: In early August, the country’s second-largest private passenger auto insurance company announced plans to expand its service center operations in Western New York, a move that will add 600 full-time jobs. The company will invest nearly $11 million for the expansion, outfitting and equipping offices at a new location near its existing Getzville facility. GEICO currently employs 2,760 associates at the Buffalo Regional Office in Getzville, and a total of more than 6,300 employees in New York State. The strength of Western New York’s economy played a part in the company’s decision to expand in the area.

Love Beets:  Also in August, Empire State Development and Love Beets USA, LLC announced the grand opening of a new $19 million facility in Rochester, where the company will process and package fresh, marinated and organic beets and beet products. The 100,000-square-foot facility is located at the LiDestri Foods manufacturing complex at Eastman Business Park. The move means job growth (from 111 current employees to 140 full-time employees within three years) and a growth in opportunities for local growers, with the company’s goal of having most of its beets sourced by New York State farmers.