WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today
against Dean Foods Company challenging its April 2009 acquisition of Foremost
Farms USA’s Consumer Products Division. The department said that the merger
eliminates substantial competition between the two companies in the sale of milk
to schools, grocery stores, convenience stores and other retailers in Illinois,
Michigan and Wisconsin.
The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, along with state attorneys
general from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit today in U.S.
District Court in Milwaukee, seeking to require Dean Foods to sell the dairy
processing plants it acquired from Foremost Farms.
Dairy processors, such as Dean Foods and Foremost Farms, purchase raw milk from
dairy farms and agricultural cooperatives to pasteurize and package the milk.
The processors then distribute and sell the milk to school districts,
supermarkets, grocery stores and other commercial customers.
“The purpose of the department’s lawsuit is to restore competition so that
schools, grocery stores and other retailers in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin,
will pay lower prices for their milk,” said Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney
General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.
The department’s lawsuit not only seeks to undo the 2009 deal but also requires
Dean Foods to notify the department at least 30 days prior to any future
acquisition involving a milk processing operation.
Dean Foods’ acquisition of Foremost Farms’ two dairy processing plants in De
Pere and Waukesha, Wis., eliminated an aggressive competitor against Dean Foods,
the department said. Dean Foods and Foremost Farms were the first and fourth
largest milk processors in northeastern Illinois, the Upper Peninsula of
Michigan (the UP) and Wisconsin, respectively. Dean Foods now has approximately
57 percent of the market for processed milk in northeastern Illinois, the UP and
The department’s complaint alleges that the transaction reduced competition
substantially in the sale of milk to school districts in the UP and Wisconsin.
Dean Foods and Foremost Farms were the two best-situated processors from which
to purchase milk for numerous school districts in the UP and Wisconsin. After
Dean Foods’ acquisition of Foremost Farms’ Consumer Products Division, these
districts have been left with a monopoly provider. There are also a substantial
number of school districts in the region for which Dean Foods and Foremost Farms
were two of only three recent or likely future bidders. These school districts
have been left with only two choices after the acquisition.
The department also alleges that the acquisition reduced competition
substantially in the sale of milk to supermarkets, grocery stores, and other
commercial customers throughout northeastern Illinois, the UP and Wisconsin.
Dean Foods’ acquisition deprived these retailers of the benefits of substantial
head-to-head competition between Dean Foods and Foremost Farms. Further, the
department said that with Foremost Farms eliminated as a competitor, it would be
easier for Dean Foods to coordinate with the remaining milk processors, whose
competitive decision-making Dean Foods has described as “more predictable” and
The April 2009 transaction between Dean Foods and Foremost Farms was not
required to be reported under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act
of 1976, which requires companies to notify and provide information to the
department and the Federal Trade Commission before consummating certain
acquisitions. The purchase price of the transaction was less than the minimum
Dean Foods is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in
Dallas. It is one of the largest food and beverage producers in the United
States, with revenues of $12.5 billion in 2008. Dean Foods’ Dairy Group is the
country’s largest processor and distributor of milk and other dairy products.
Foremost Farms is a Wisconsin member-owned business association headquartered in
Baraboo, Wis., the members of which are dairy farmers. In 2008, its Consumer
Products Division had net sales of $233.7 million. Prior to Dean Foods’
acquisition of its Consumer Products Division, Foremost Farms processed its
members’ raw milk at its plants in DePere and Waukesha, Wis., as well as at
U.S. Department of Justice