Two Maryland-based dairy companies, whose future had been in question because their owner wanted out of the business, have found a buyer with expansion plans in mind.
High's Dairies Inc., a Laurel company doing business as East Coast Ice Cream, and Embassy Dairy Inc., based in Waldorf, were acquired by the Protein Group, a Stamford, Conn.-based ** distributor of dairy products, the Protein Group said Tuesday.
The two companies had been owned by the Morningstar Group Inc. of Dallas, a food-products company. The transaction does not affect High's stores, which are not owned by Morningstar.
Scott Andrews, chief financial officer of the Protein Group, said the deal ensures that the two Maryland businesses will remain in operation. Morningstar, he said, wanted to leave the dairy-products business and had already closed a dairy operation in the Midwest.
He added that the purchase price for the two businesses, which together account for almost $100 million in sales annually, was "in excess of $10 million."
The two Maryland companies together have about 50 employees, he said.
Neither company owns any cows. They buy milk from farmers and cooperatives in bulk, then process and package the dairy products.
Embassy Dairy primarily caters to convenience stores in the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia areas. East Coast Ice Cream, whose labels include Barricini, makes such products as ice cream bars and sells them in the mid-Atlantic region.
Mr. Andrews said the Protein Group, which will increase its annual sales to about $250 million through the acquisition, would like to expand both businesses.
He said the company might want to move East Coast's products into some Southern markets and broaden Embassy's business beyond convenience stores to grocery stores and institutions.