PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The makers of the local milk brand Rhody Fresh say their business is getting back on track after widely noted distribution problems in recent months.
“This was a tough summer for us,” said Alex LaPrise, director of the Rhode Island Dairy Farmers Cooperative, which manages Rhody Fresh.
“Rhody Fresh did not go out of business,” she said. “The farmers still own the brand and they still own everything revolving around that.”
The cooperative’s board recently hired an outside distributor to manage deliveries of Rhody Fresh to grocery stores and other customers, she said, and a change in processors means the milk will go back to being packaged in the well-known blue cartons rather than plastic.
The new distributor expects to have Rhody Fresh back on all store shelves by mid-October, LaPrise said. “It’s just a matter of getting all the accounts set up,” she said.
Rhody Fresh was launched in 2004 with grants from the Department of Environmental Management and the Rhode Island Foundation, and as of early this year was sold in more than 100 area supermarkets.
Four of Rhode Island’s remaining dairy farms produce milk for Rhody Fresh: EMMA Acres in Exeter, owned by LaPrise’s family; Breene Hollow Farm in West Greenwich; Escobar’s Highland Farm in Portsmouth; and Elmrock Farm in Hopkinton. EMMA Acres will be opening a store at its farm that carries Rhody Fresh on Oct. 6.
The farmers have described Rhody Fresh as a lifeline during a very difficult period for the dairy industry due to a multiyear drop in milk prices. While prices have risen in recent months, LaPrise said dairy farmers in Rhode Island and around the country “are still struggling.”
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook