Heartisan Foods Acquires Fellow Cheesemaker North Country Dairy in Wisconsin

Heartisan Foods acquires fellow cheesemaker North Country Dairy to expand its production capacity.

Heartisan Foods, a private equity-backed cheese producer, acquired North Country Dairy, another cheese producer, on September 8, 2023. Both companies are based in Wisconsin, United States. Heartisan Foods made the acquisition with the help of private equity funding from Ronin Equity Partners to expand its production capacity.

Transaction Summary

Our Take on the Acquisition

Heartisan Foods (acquirer) acquired North Country Dairy (target) to expand its production capabilities. The deal will triple Heartisan Food’s manufacturing capacity, which will aid its fast-growing direct-to-consumer brand, Cheese Brothers, and allow the company to launch new products in the cheese spreads and cheese curds categories. The product portfolios of both companies are very similar, so the transition and integration are expected to be seamless.

The Facts of the Acquisition

  • Target: North Country Dairy is a family-owned producer of cheese and cheese products in Wisconsin that has been in operation since 2007. The company started as a packaging company and then transitioned to making cheese under its own brand, North Country Cheese.
  • Acquirer: Heartisan Foods is a cheese producer in Wisconsin that produces specialty cheeses, cheese spreads, and cheese curds. It is backed by Ronin Equity Partners, who have utilized and grown Heartisan Foods by making it a platform for further acquisitions in the sector.

The Transaction

Date:September 8, 2023
Purpose: To expand Heartisan’s production capacity and product portfolio.
Acquirer’s Statement:Gene Graf, CEO of Heartisan – “We’ve known the [owners of North Country Dairy, Kendall, and Maria] Goossens and their colleagues at North Country for years, and we share the exact same vision. The added capacity comes at just the right time, given that we’re currently running our production facilities at full steam. With 32 different North Country cheese spreads and cheese curds to choose from, Heartisan’s customers now have a different flavor to enjoy every day of any month.”

Target/Seller: North Country Dairy

Company Information

Target:North Country Dairy
Industry: Food Manufacturer – Cheese
Type:Private, Family-Owned
Employees:4 (Unconfirmed Source: Datanyze)
Locations:Head Office and Factory: 1623 6th St, Almena, Wisconsin, United States

Product Information 

Products:Cheese: A variety of cheeses like parmesan, cheddar, blue cheese, provolone, gouda, swiss, pepper jack, muenster, and mozzarella
Cheese Curds: Moist pieces of curdled milk in a variety of flavors
Cheese Spreads: A variety of cheese mixed with butter or cream and seasonings
String Cheese: Regular or smoked string cheese in multi- and single-wrapped packaging
Brand:North Country Cheese
Market Reach:United States

Financial Information 

Revenue:USD $2.1 million (Unconfirmed source: Datanyze)
Revenue per Employee:USD $525,000 (i.e., USD $2.1 million / 4 employees = USD $525,000 – estimated based on the number of employees and revenue from Datanyze)

Did You Know?

Revenue in the cheese market amounted to USD $30.4 billion in 2023. The market is expected to grow annually by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.07% between 2023 and 2028. The average volume per person in the cheese market is expected to amount to 14.5 lbs in 2023 in the United States, and the average revenue per person is expected to be USD $90.3.

Target/Seller Overview: North Country Dairy

North Country Packaging was started in 2007 by Kendall and Maria Goossen and their children. Kendall had been working in the dairy distribution business since 1992. Through his work in the retail side of the dairy industry, he was approached with an opportunity to produce a line of North Country Gourmet Cheese spreads. An existing outbuilding on their land was renovated to make a small cheese factory and they began making small hand-crafted batches of North Country Gourmet cheese spreads.

Around the same time, Kendall and his business partner in distribution, Dennis Wenger, co-founded the North Country Cheese line. In 2020, North Country Packaging began doing business as North Country Dairy to reflect its new endeavor in the dairy industry. Today, the company offers gourmet cheese spreads, fresh curds, and a range of cheeses, all produced using ingredients from Wisconsin, United States.

North Country Dairy produces specialty cheeses under the brand North Country Cheese.

Buyer/Acquirer: Heartisan Foods

Company Information

Buyer:Heartisan Foods
Industry: Food Manufacturer – Cheese
Type:Private with Private Equity Funding
Employees:51 to 200 (Self-published on LinkedIn)
Locations:Head Office and Factory: 1623 B US Hwy 8, Barron, Wisconsin, United States

Product Information 

Products:Cheese: A variety of cheeses like cheddar, havarti, muenster, and gouda
Cheese Curds: Moist pieces of curdled milk in a variety of flavors
Cheese Spreads: A variety of cheeses mixed with butter, or cream, and seasonings
Brands:Cheese Brothers
Red Apple Cheese
Naturally Good Kosher
Market Reach:United States

Financial Information 

Revenue:USD $50 million (Source: Just-foods.com)
Revenue per Employee:From USD $250,000 to USD $1.0 million (i.e., from USD $50 million / 200 employees = USD $250,000 to USD $50 million / 50 employee = USD $1.0 million – estimated based on the self-published number of employees and revenue from Just-foods.com)

Buyer/Acquirer Overview: Heartisan Foods

Heartisan Foods was founded in 1991 and is an omni-channel producer of smoked, flavored, and kosher all-natural cheese. The company is based in Wisconsin’s dairyland. Heartisan utilizes a slow, meticulous, cold-smoking process with specially aged apple pulp and hardwood to create the perfect cheese.

The company has been backed by Ronin Equity Partners, a private equity firm, since 2021. Ronin has utilized Heartisan Foods as a platform to acquire more cheese producers based in Wisconsin, including Red Apple Cheese, Barron County Cheese, and Cheese Brothers.

Wisconsin-based Heartisan Foods produces a variety of specialty cheeses.


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