Mayfield Dairy Farms, Inc.

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4 Mayfield Lane
Athens, Tennessee 37371

Telephone: (423) 745-2151
Toll Free: (800) 629-3435
Fax: (423) 746-1782
Web site:

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Dean Foods Company
Sales: $200 million (2004 est.)
Employees: 1,800
NAIC: 31151 Dairy Product (Except Frozen) Manufacturing; 311511 Fluid Milk Manufacturing; 311520 Ice Cream and Frozen Dessert Manufacturing

Mayfield Dairy Farms, Inc., produces and distributes milk and ice cream products in nine southeastern states. The company has been run by the Mayfield family since its start in 1923. In 1990, it became a subsidiary of Dean Foods.

1923–80s: A Family-Owned Creamery Expands Beyond Tennessee

Thomas B. Mayfield, Jr., and his wife, Goldie, started Mayfield Creamery in 1923. Mayfield, Jr., came from a family with a long tradition in farming. In the 1820s, his great grandfather, Jesse Mayfield, started a farm in McMinn County, Tennessee, and began peddling his surplus milk to neighbors in the surrounding Athens community. In the 1870s, Mayfield's father, ThomasB. Mayfield, Sr., began raising and selling horses, Jersey cows, and Berkshire hogs. Mayfield, Sr., his wife, and their son, Thomas B. Mayfield, Jr., purchased 45 Jersey cows in 1912 and established Live Oak Farms, selling milk to the residents of McMinn County from a horse-drawn buggy. In 1922, the Mayfield family completed a new milk plant and began marketing the first pasteurized milk between Chattanooga and Knoxville.

Throughout the Great Depression, the Mayfields supported Mayfield Creamery's operations by borrowing capital to expand and maintain full employment. When Mayfield, Jr., died in 1937, Thomas B. Mayfield III took over the company with the help of a family friend, Tom Harrison. Mayfield III, and his brother, Scott, mortgaged the family farm to build the most modern milk plant in the southeastern United States when they returned from World War II. In 1950, the company opened its first full-scale production facility in Athens, Tennessee. Continuing its steady expansion, Mayfield Creamery opened its first distribution center in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1954. Another company first occurred in 1955 when Mayfield converted its milk fleet from ice-cooled to refrigerated trucks. This innovation enabled the company to ship its products throughout the southeastern United States.

In 1958, Mayfield became the first dairy in the United States to install an Aerovac vacreator. This imported device from New Zealand superheated the milk in a vacuum to remove unwanted odors and flavors. "You get a slight cooked flavor consumers perceive as richness," Rob Mayfield explained in a 2004 Dairy Field article. "It tastes the same year round." However, although Mayfield favored this technology and continued to use it for its ability to produce milk with a consistently fresh flavor, the dairy industry as a whole did not adopt it. The following year, the company continued its expansion by opening a Knoxville distribution facility.

In the 1960s, Mayfield began focusing on ice cream production and innovation. To this end, in 1962, the company purchased equipment that enabled it to freeze its packaged ice cream faster, yielding a smoother-textured product. Around the same time, Thomas B. Mayfield, III also developed the first zipper-opening ice cream carton, which the company called the Zip-II carton. The carton, which resealed tightly, offered the advantage of preserving the ice cream's freshness for future servings.

As Mayfield's products grew in popularity throughout the southeastern United States, the company began expanding its production capacity outside of Tennessee. In 1977, the company entered the Atlanta market by purchasing the Aristocrat Ice Cream Company. This business strategy proved to be a big success; Mayfield's ice cream sales exploded throughout north Georgia and Atlanta. Mayfield was the best-selling ice cream in Atlanta in 1980, and the following year Time magazine selected Mayfield's ice cream as "the best ice cream in the world."

1980s–90s: New Directions, Steady Growth, and a Change of Ownership

Throughout the 1980s, Mayfield continued to introduce new products and to streamline its operations. In the early 1980s, it was the first company to make and fill its own milk jugs in a continuous operation. Then, in 1983, the company introduced its trademark yellow gallon milk jug to block out light and thus protect the flavor and nutrients in milk. As American's concern for health and nutrition grew, Mayfield began to capitalize on the trend, marketing Nu-Trish A/B in east Tennessee in 1987. This new milk product contained a combined culture of acidophilus and bifidum—two bacteria beneficial to digestion. In 1989, Mayfield began distributing many of its products via vending machines and introduced its low-fat frozen yogurt, which soon became a best-seller in the United States.

By 1990, Mayfield's annual sales exceeded $110 million and the company's customers spanned from eastern Tennessee to northern Georgia. In that same year, Dean Foods Company purchased Mayfield and the company began investing in plant renovations, installing modern processing and packaging equipment. It also set up ice cream distribution centers throughout the southeast, beginning with centers in Tennessee, Virginia, and South Carolina in 1993.

The sale of the dairy was a time of soul-searching for the great-grandsons of the first Thomas B. Mayfield. "When we sold in 1990, I had to decide what my role [in the business] was going to be," revealed Scott, Jr. (Scottie) in a 1997 Chattanooga Free Press article. He and his brother opted to stay at the helm of the family business. At the time, milk consumption nationwide was down and milk price supports were being phased out. However, sales of ice cream were still steady in the mid-1990s. Mayfield was selling ice cream in seven southeastern states. Although vanilla still reigned as the company's most popular type of ice cream, Mayfield introduced a whole new line of flavors.

Milk sales continued to slump, and, in early 1995, faced with the necessity of replacing two extremely old paperboard carton machines in its plant, the company decided to look to its past for inspiration for its future. According to president Scottie Mayfield, "[W]e knew the company was going to make in investment in equipment, the question was if there was a better way for us to package our milk. . . . It was a big decision, going in a completely different direction than any dairy had ever tried. . . [b]ut we thought it was the best way to appeal to on-the-go consumers and get them to drink more milk," he was quoted in a 2004 Dairy Field article. So, in September 1995, Mayfield introduced an entirely new package: a plastic bottle shaped like an old-fashioned glass milk bottle. The bottle—called a Chug—featured a twist-on, resealable, tamper-evident cap and fit in a car cup holder, both of which features helped it compete with single-serve juices and sodas.

Unfortunately, the new bottle did not initially attract many of Mayfield Dairy's regular vending customers whose vending machines were equipped only to handle paperboard cartons. As a result of the switch, the company immediately lost about 40 percent of its vending customers. Other vendors accommodated Mayfield; however they remained tentative about customer response because of the accompanying need to increase pricing. In the end, though, customers voted heartily in favor of the Chug packaging, and, by 1996, the company's vending business was slowly returning back to its paperboard levels. Soon, Mayfield was adding products to its line of Chug products, including lemonade and Jungle Juice. "On one hand, the customers who stuck with us have all seen increases in sales . . . on the other hand, now that the word has gotten out about how well the old-style bottle is doing in the vending machines, we are getting new inquiries from customers," Scottie Mayfield could recall proudly in a 1996 Beverage World article.

At the same time, poor weather in 1996 led to high costs for soybeans, corn, hay, and other feed grains for cows and put a damper on milk production. Dairy farmers had to cut back on herd size and feed their cows less. The cost of milk cost increased to between $2.50 and $3.00 per gallon. The situation continued through 1997 leading to only modest annual increases in dairy consumption overall and no growth in fluid milk. Regardless of the poor market, Mayfield, as a subsidiary of a large conglomerate, Dean Foods, continued to grow. By 1996, the company was building a new milk processing plant on a 20-acre site in Braselton, Tennessee. The plant had the capacity to receive milk seven days a week. Raw milk was stored in 50,000-gallon silos, and cream was stored in 8,000-gallon cream silos. Mix-proof valves in the receiving area, eliminated the need to disconnect hoses when switching from pumping milk out of a truck to cleaning the truck. The 70,000-square foot project cost upwards of $15 million to build and included a visitors center with ice cream parlor, gift shop, and a theater. It processed 150,000 gallons of skim, 2-percent, whole, and chocolate milk per day. The plant serviced the Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina school markets with gallon and half-gallon plastic bottles and half-pint cartons of milk.

Growth continued for the company through the rest of the 1990s. In 1997, Mayfield purchased Tri-State Dairy's facilities in Georgia and used the buildings acquired as distribution centers for milk and ice cream. By 1997, Mayfield was processing 50 million gallons of milk and 12 million gallons of ice cream in 30 flavors annually. In 1999, it became the official milk of Zoo Atlanta through the year 2001. In commemoration of its 75th anniversary that year, it introduced its milk in old-fashioned glass milk bottles.

Company Perspectives:

Our top quality people produce top quality products which are delivered with top quality service.

2000 and Beyond: Focusing on Ice Cream

Mayfield entered into an alliance with Barber Dairy in 2000 to distribute Mayfield's ice cream throughout Alabama, creating a line of products called Select. Consumers reacted positively to the new line and sales rose, making Mayfield the number one brand of vanilla in Atlanta and East Tennessee. In 2002, Mayfield expanded its ice cream products and services. At this point, it replaced Barber's ice cream with its full Classic line, adding novelties such as its Brown Cows, Fudge Bars, ice cream sandwiches, and Banana Pops. Also in 2002, it introduced packaging for its ice cream with the new "click-top" ice cream lid.

Between 2000 and 2002, Mayfield invested $17 million in plant modernization and expansion and established seven additional distribution centers, six in Alabama and one in Florida. Also in 2002, the company introduced a new ice cream package made of millennium board, a paper product that improved insulation, better preserving freshness, while reducing crushing and damage.

Key Dates:

Thomas B. Mayfield, Jr., begins a dairy operation with 45 Jersey cows.
Mayfield Creamery begins operations in Athens, Tennessee.
Thomas B. Mayfield, Jr., dies and Thomas B. Mayfield III takes over the company.
Mayfield Dairy completes construction of a new milk facility.
The company purchases the Aristocrat Ice Cream Company.
Dean Foods Company purchases Mayfield Dairy.
The company adds four additional distribution facilities in Georgia.
Mayfield began production at its new milk plant in Braselton, Georgia; company purchases the facilities of Tri-State Dairy on Georgia.
Mayfield forms an alliance with Barber Dairy.

In 2004, the dairy industry experienced the biggest price hike ever, an increase of 50 to 60 cents per gallon of milk. Mayfield, however, remained strong, adding low-carb ice cream to its line and continuing to develop new flavors. "We're trying our best to sometimes get ahead of and sometimes catch up and try to stay with consumers and their needs," Scottie Mayfield announced in an Associated Press wire.

Further Reading

Behrendt, Cathy, "Dean Foods Reinvents Milk," Business and Industry , September 1997, p. 26.

Dudlicek, James, "Chugging Along," Dairy Field , October 2004, p. 1.

Mans, Jack, "Georgia on Their Minds," Dairy Foods , March 1999,p. 53.

"Packaging That 'Works Right Now' Helps Sell the Good at Mayfield Dairy," BrandPackaging , January 2003, p. 30.

Schackleford, Chris, "A Family Scoop: For Four Generations the Mayfield Family Has Been a Step Ahead of Consumer's Tastes in New Trends and Flavors in Ice Cream," Chattanooga Free Press , December 1997, p. 11.

Sfiligoj, Eric, "Bring Your Milk Money and Spare Some Change for Water," Beverage World , May 31, 1996, p. 18.

—Carrie Rothburd

User Contributions:

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Aug 31, 2011 @ 3:15 pm
would really like to see a milk line in glass bottles. willing to pay a little more to get it in glass

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