Skip to main content

GCEDC mum on whether Genesee County was in running for new Coca-Cola dairy processing plant

By Howard B. Owens
HP Hood Ag Park
The HP Hood dairy processing facility in the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park in Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens

There just isn't enough room in the Genesee Valley Ag Park on the east side of the Town of Batavia for a project as large as the Fairlife plant announced today in Monroe County.

The 745,000-square-foot facility will be built by Coca-Cola and create an estimated 250 jobs in the Town of Webster.  The company is expected to invest $650 million in the project.

Asked if the Genesee County Economic Development Center competed for the project, Jim Krencik, senior director of marketing and communications for GCEDC, said it is against agency policy to discuss what companies might have looked at Genesee County as a possible site location for a facility.

"The huge winners here are the dairy farmers," Krencik said. "Wherever it's located in our region, the dairy farmers are the biggest winners."

When asked a follow-up question, he said with HP Hood and Upstate Niagara Milk Cooperative operating in the park along with planned expansions, the Coca-Cola facility wouldn't fit in the park.

Asked about potential sites in Genesee County for such a facility, he said there could be, but that would depend on available infrastructure, and he reiterated the policy of not discussing negotiations with businesses.

HP Hood is the largest land owner in the Ag Park. Its current facility sits on 80 acres, and the company also owns a 22-acre parcel to the factory's north, and 30-acre and 17-acre parcels to the west. All three of those parcels are currently vacant.

The Coca-Cola project in Monroe County has echoes of another soda company's foray into the dairy business -- when Pepsi Co teamed up with the Theo Muller Group to build a Greek yogurt factory in the ag park.  Pepsi and Muller invested $206 million into the project only to close the doors less than three years later.

Pepsi sold the 363,000-square-foot plant to the Dairy Farmers of America for $60 million.

Hood purchased the plant in 2018 from DFA for $54 million. Hood immediately expanded the plant by at least another 100,000 square feet.

The other failed Greek yogurt project, the plant built by Alpina, is now a dairy processing facility for Upstate Niagara Milk Cooperative.

The big difference, perhaps, between the Pepsi and Coke projects is that Pepsi was trying to start a new business line and enter the emerging and competitive market of Greek yogurt. And the product, some critics pointed out, wasn't really Greek yogurt. Pepsi Muller found it hard to get its products on grocery store shelves. 

In Coke's case, its Fairlife brand was launched in 2012 and is widely distributed, having already hit $1 billion in sales.

According to the company's website, Fairlife is an ultra-filtered, flavored dairy drink. The process reportedly removes the lactose and much of the sugar and leaves behind more protein and calcium.

Gov. Kathy Hochul praised Coca-Cola for selecting Monroe County as the location for its new plant.

"This decision by Fairlife to expand their operations in Monroe County marks the next chapter in New York's agricultural success story," Hochul said. "New York's dairy industry serves as a crucial economic engine for our state, and this $650 million investment from Fairlife will create jobs and drive economic impact, particularly in the Finger Lakes."

Authentically Local