Laurentian View Dairy Ltd.: A Sweet Local Treat

John Tracey and his brother, Tom, have a long history in the dairy business. Their family owns Tracey Dairy in Renfrew, Ontario, where the brothers gained their background in the milk products sector and in the distribution of major brands like Good Humor and Breyers. “We come from a family of 11 children,” says John. “Our father was in ice cream making all his life. He bought a dairy in 1980 when I was 14 years old. He converted it from a milk plant to an ice cream manufacturing facility. I was there for about 20 years.”

In June 2010, however, the brothers struck out on their own and purchased a small dairy in Deep River, Ontario, from Darryl Blimpsky. “He was a friend of the family, he went to school with our dad, and his family had owned it since 1936,” says John. Building on these roots, John and Tom set out to provide the finest dairy processing services, as well as a dairy bar and restaurant. There are no cows on the premises, so John and the team source milk from regional farmers to process milk, cream and ice cream for the Ottawa Valley region. The family has a relationship stretching back several decades with producers through the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.

A Comfortable Place in the Market

John, who currently holds the title of president at Laurentian, admits his dairy, which sits on four acres and employs 50, is not the biggest in the industry by a long shot. “We’re not overly competitive,” he explains. “We’re not at the forefront of new technology. When you go into the supermarket, you’ll see that a lot of milk containers have screw-on caps. We don’t use those yet. For now we’ll do what we do best, but we’re dabbling into different areas that we can service with our current capabilities.” Laurentian is chasing after some accounts that will give the company a boost, however, building on the company’s tradition of producing customer-pleasing flavors.

The company makes ice cream on the premises, which has become a well-known local treat. With 40 rotating varieties, many flock to the dairy bar for dessert. “We make a lot of unique, specialized varieties,” explains John. Some seasonal favorites include pumpkin and eggnog, while chocolate peanut butter remains a popular choice year round. “We’re always working on something new,” says John. The team is rolling out a cocoa Kahlua ice cream that the owners expect to be a major hit.

Laurentian has recently purchased some new equipment to diversify operations at the dairy. “We’re getting into ice manufacturing,” says John. “We’ve purchased some equipment, but we haven’t installed it yet.” The dairy plans to start selling ice in 2013 and distributing affordable blocks and cubes around the region. John expects some solid returns from the ice manufacturing operation, and has been seeking out other avenues of producing larger margins. Aside from ice production, John is in the preliminary stages of developing new production capabilities. “We have a few irons in the fire right now, but nothing we can share until they hit the market,” he explains.

Reaching Out to New Customers

The dairy’s products are sold all over Ontario, though it is a challenge keeping up with larger processors. “The bigger players are producing milk at a cheaper price,” explains John. He hopes his efforts to reach out to a larger customer base will allow the company to grow and become more competitive. “We’re looking to land some bigger contracts with a chain,” he explains. “We’d like to get into a niche account such as Tim Horton’s for creamers.” With a larger market share, John feels the company would build a solid foundation for growth. “Retailers are always looking for the best price,” he explains. “Our only struggle is obtaining that market share. We’re fortunate to make our own ice cream, which makes things more profitable.”

The brothers are looking to further promote the services available at the dairy as well. “We have a restaurant here, too,” says John. The Laurentian View Dairy Restaurant serves a spread of family fare to visitors for breakfast lunch and dinner. “We’re really looking to expand what we offer here. Tom and I are putting a lot of effort into improving the menu for the restaurant.” The business remains steady, despite some economic dips. The affordable family atmosphere at the restaurant, combined with Laurentian’s variety of cold desserts, keeps customers coming back for more.

John has seen the business improving over the last few years. “People are always going to eat,” he explains. “Being in the food industry is the best place to be.” The brothers offer quality products, as well as local flavor, and Laurentian View Dairy Ltd. Holds the potential to increase its market presence and continue the family’s dairy industry legacy.