Last updated on March 30th, 2022 at 07:51 am
An offshoot of Missouri-based Osage Food Products purchased the former Lake Country Foods plant in Oconomowoc and is hoping to begin production in early April.
OFP Ingredients purchased the building in August for $1 million. Kevin Marcus, general manager and partner of OFP Ingredients, said Osage was a Lake Country Foods customer before the company shut down in early 2018.
Marcus said Lake Country Foods agglomeration processes had become an industry standard and Osage found it difficult to find products produced at the same level. When he heard the plant was closing, Marcus said his first thought was to see if Osage could purchase it or at least the equipment.
The nearly 100-year-old plant at 132 S. Concord Road in Oconomowoc was once home to Carnation Instant Products and was also owned by Nestle Beverage Co. Lake Country Foods purchased it in 1998.
Contractors for OFP Ingredients have been working on the facility since September, installing new commercial metal roofing, exterior roof walls, electrical and HVAC. Inside the facility, new doors and a separate packaging room are being added, Marcus said.
“We’re cleaning the place up and we’re bringing it up to meet the standards of the customers and the regulatory bodies,” Marcus said. “It had kind of fallen in disrepair over the last 10 years so it needed quite a bit of work.”
When Lake Country Foods closed, the company said it made the decision because it was not economically feasible to modernize the plant. Marcus said OFP Ingredients is confident based on its due diligence that it is possible to get the business up and running again.
Among the issues Lake Country Foods faced was $1.2 million in losses from Salmonella contamination that occurred just months before the plant shut down. The issue is now the subject of a lawsuit between Lake Country Foods and Houston Casualty Co., but Marcus said contamination won’t be an issue moving forward.
“I think we’ve got the facility under control. We identified the points where the contamination was taking place and we’ve fixed those areas,” Marcus said. “We’re spending millions of dollars here and if we didn’t think we could have fixed the problem we would have walked away from it.”
The plan is for renovation work to be done by the end of February. The company would clean and sanitize the facility in March before starting test runs. The goal would be to open for business in early April.
When Lake Country Foods closed it eliminated 91 jobs. Marcus said he hopes to have 30 to 35 employees when the plant reaches three shifts, ideally within three years.
The lower headcount is the result of limiting the products to dairy proteins.
“We’re going to limit what we’re going to do to some basic products,” Marcus said, adding OFP Ingredients could expand offerings in the future.