Walmart is betting big on another milk plant it plans to build in Georgia. The Valdosta operation will be the second such facility the retail giant owns following a similar venture in 2018 in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“Walmart is committed to delivering high-quality milk to meet the growing demand of our customers. Today, we’re excited to share that we are furthering that commitment with the opening of an owned and operated milk processing facility in Valdosta,” Bruce Heckman, vice president of manufacturing private brands at Walmart, said in a statement.
The retailer said it plans to break ground later this year, creating 400 new jobs in the plant slated to open in 2025 and processing milk purchased from local dairy farms. Local officials said the average wage at the plant will be $30 per hour.
Adam Bradley, senior director of business development at Walmart, said the plant will be a class one fluid milk facility that processes products for 750 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores in the southeastern U.S. Products coming from the plant will include gallon, half-gallon, whole, 2%, 1%, skim and 1% chocolate milk labeled Great Value at Walmart and Member’s Mark at Sam’s Club.
Scott Benedict, an affiliate partner at McMillanDoolittle retail consultancy, said it makes sense for Walmart to get closer to processing high-volume, low-margin foods such as dairy.
“It’s a way for Walmart to understand every step in processing, including the supply chain, to ensure the highest possible quality and also look for ways to trim costs so that it can continue to offer low prices to its customer base,” Benedict said.
He said Walmart is not the only retailer to delve into food production and processing. Costco has done it, and so has Kroger, which operates 19 company-owned dairy plants that process milk, ice cream, cheese and other dairy novelties.
Georgia Milk Producers report there are 89 dairy farms in the state. Walmart has yet to say how many farms it will recruit to supply the plant. The dairy trade group said Georgia farms produced 235 million gallons of milk last year. The state already has two other commercial milk processing plants.
Walmart also operates a case-ready beef facility in Thomasville, Ga., and is building a second case-ready facility for beef processing in Olathe, Kan. Walmart said it is also making equity investments and long-term commercial agreements with rancher-owned Sustainable Beef LLC and vertical farming company Plenty.