Alexandria Bursiek Kloehn Appleton Post-Crescent | USA TODAY NETWORK – WISCONSIN
KIMBERLY — On Dec. 13, 1913 Jacob Lamers Sr. and Petronella Lamers opened Lamers Dairy. 110 years later, the dairy is still bottling milk in the same place it all started in Kimberly. h In 1913, the Lamers sold milk from their own dairy farm, distributing raw milk in preserve cans to Kimberly residents on foot. Only a year later, milk was delivered by horse and buggy in the business’ first milk cart.
Now, Lamers Dairy bottles milk from seven Northeastern Wisconsin farms, the farthest of which is only 30 miles from the Lamers Dairy plant and retail store at N410 Speel School Road in Appleton. The plant is one of only three bottling plants left in Wisconsin, said Mark Lamers, president of Lamers Dairy. According to the Federal Milk Marketing Order Program, there are nine plants left in the upper midwest — only 15 years ago, there were 27. The other Wisconsin plants are owned by Kemps and Kwik Trip, which bottles its own milk products.
Two factors lead to long-term success Lamers attributes the business’s longevity to the quality of the milk they receive from local farms and their dedication to serving niche markets.
Lamers said he is frequently asked, “why is it your milk tastes so much better than the competition?” His answer, “I firmly believe it always starts on the farm, we pay our producers a premium to get us the highest quality milk possible … We try to support the community and support the local family farms.”
Last month, the plant processed roughly 1.8 million pounds of milk, its most ever. For comparison, the plant processed a million pounds for the first time in 2013. Today, Lamers Dairy has 36 full and part-time employees and bottles five days a week. In addition to milk products, the plant also produces other dairy bases for small Wisconsin businesses. For example, the plant premixes the ice cream base for Kelley Country Creamery. The Fond du Lac-area business then adds their own flavoring to the base they received from Lamers.
Twenty percent of Lamers milk products are bottled in glass bottles, something Eric McGuire, the company’s vice president of business operations, says makes them different from other bottlers in the state.
The use of glass bottles allows the company to play on the nostalgia of the past, since plastic and even cardboard milk packaging has been the norm for decades. Additionally, the glass bottles, McGuire said, are more sustainable. Customers who use them are encouraged to return the bottles for a discount on future products and they are cleaned and reused. In May, the plant purchased a new bottle cleaning machine to make the process more efficient.
“It’s developed into a niche market for us,” Lamers said. “People like that they can return it and there’s not empty plastic bottles going back to the landfill.”
Additionally, Lamers said, milk tastes better from a glass bottle.
“For me, I always think milk tastes better in glass,” he said. “It holds its integrity, its flavor, a little bit better.”
Another niche product Lamers offers is kosher milk. The dairy has been selling the product for more than 30 years and still distributes the milk to the Orthodox Jewish community, mostly in the Chicago area but also to Detroit, St. Louis and some western states.
Lamers said niche markets really appeal to Lamers Dairy because of their size, being a small business makes them a great fit for small or unique orders — something that’s been true for decades.
In 1999, Tom Lamers, the then-sales manager for the dairy, was quoted in the Post-Crescent. “ The reason these guys are calling us is because the big guys (in bottling) won’t do it,” he said about the dairy’s sale of glass bottled milk and Kosher milk. “And the little guys aren’t around anymore.”
Five generations push business to more than 200 retail stores
Despite the dairy’s age, the business has remained in the family. Today it’s run by fourth and fifth generation family members.
McGuire, who is a fifth-generation family member, said Lamers reached out to him roughly 18 years ago about working for the family business.
“I thought there’s an opportunity to really contribute to the family history and family legacy,” McGuire said.
Both McGuire and Lamers said they are excited to see the next generation of family members and employees take on the business.
“It’s definitely our intent to keep things in the family and keep growing and focusing on the development of our people,” McGuire said.
Lamers Dairy products are available in more than 200 retail stores in the Midwest or at the retail location in Appleton.
More information can be found at lamersdairyinc. com. The Lamers Dairy retail store is open 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Alexandria Bursiek Kloehn is a business reporter for the Appleton Post-Crescent.
You can reach her at abursiekkloehn@

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