Lifeway to rehire all Golden Guernsey workers

Leaders at Lifeway Foods Inc. plan to rehire all of the workers who were laid off from Golden Guernsey Dairy LLC to staff the Waukesha facility when it reopens this summer.

The Morton Grove, Ill.-based company won a bid to purchase Golden Guernsey out of bankruptcy for $7.4 million last week and plans to manufacture a cultured dairy drink called kefir at the plant.

Golden Guernsey was suddenly shuttered in January, leaving 112 employees out of work.

“Hopefully we’ll bring them all back and then some,” said Lifeway chief executive officer Julie Smolyansky. “Some folks I know have left and moved on to other jobs, but we would definitely try to bring back as many as we could.”

The kefir products Lifeway makes have been growing in popularity with the health food movement, so the company has been expanding rapidly.

It has two Illinois production facilities totaling 80,000 square feet and 100,000 square feet of storage and refrigeration nearby. The company also recently acquired top competitors Helios Nutrition and Fresh Made Dairy, adding a 30,000-square-foot Minnesota dairy plant and a 30,000-square-foot Philadelphia dairy facility, she said.

The 170,000-square-foot Waukesha facility would more than double the company’s production capacity.

“We’ve been growing at a 30 percent rate and we are basically at capacity in our existing facility,” Smolyansky said. “This was a really great win for us and we’ve already been a customer of Golden Guernsey for at least a decade, buying their milk.”

Lifeway reported net sales of $81.4 million in 2012, up 16 percent from a year prior.

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