When supermarket shoppers reach for white gallon jugs these days, most of the time they grab a low-priced store brand. To expand those offerings, major grocery retailers, including Kroger Co., Walmart Inc. and Albertsons Cos., have built their own milk-bottling plants.
Grocers’ move into the bottling business is threatening some of the biggest operators in the $40 billion U.S. milk industry, the purveyors of national brands. Dean Foods Co., which until last year was the largest U.S. milk processor by sales, and Borden Dairy Co., another big producer, were sold this year after filing for bankruptcy in November and January. Executives of both had blamed some of their struggles on grocers’ focus on cheap milk, often used as a loss leader.
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