September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

It's back

Deja Moo milk hits shelves once again
Jim Odney, Deja Moo creator
Jim Odney, Deja Moo creator

By By Jennifer Burggraff- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

DILWORTH, Minn. - A consumer passes by the dairy case in the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Dilworth, Minn., and grabs a three liter jug of two percent milk. The logo on the jug shows a cow happily playing a guitar among a blue-swirled background.

When the consumer arrives home, he cracks open the jug, pouring himself a glass of the ice-cold milk. As he takes a sip, he suddenly feels an odd sense of familiarity - a sense of déjà vu.

What he's really experiencing is Deja Moo, a recently re-introduced brand of milk now available in select Wal-Mart Supercenters.

"Déjà vu is an experience you feel you've had before. Deja Moo is a play on that term," said brand creator Jim Odney. "It's milk like it once tasted before."

Odney's interest in developing a new brand of dairy products did not stem from a dairy background. In fact, before purchasing Enoch Schultz Creamery in Bismarck, N.D., the Fargo native had no dairy experience.

Odney grew up in Fargo, N.D. After graduating from high school, he received a degree in advertising from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., and went into media/radio sales.

By the time he was 27 years old, Odney had purchased his own radio station; he purchased a second station after a short time. He built both stations up before selling them and starting an advertising agency. From scratch, Odney built Odney Advertising Agency into a 55-employee, multi-million dollar agency, with clients including Target Corporation and Bremer Financial. In 1993, Odney added an office in the Twin Cities to better serve its Minnesota clients.

By the late 1990s, the successful entrepreneur decided to work toward fulfilling another goal - that of establishing a national brand of milk.

"Building a national milk brand comes full-circle with marketing," Odney said of his interest. "Branding is what advertising is all about. My experience in advertising was central in building a national brand."

To help launch the new brand, which he dubbed Deja Moo, Odney purchased Enoch Schultz Creamery in Bismarck, N.D.

"The original concept was to license dairies throughout the country under the national brand," Odney said.

The philosophy behind his product is to provide consumers with milk and dairy products that taste more like they used to.

"I'm of the strong opinion that milk is getting over-processed," Odney said. "My primary interest is producing quality milk and providing consumers with fresher tasting milk."

To do this, Odney only purchased milk from producers not treating their cows with rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Also, he opted to use a separation process that did not involve heat, leaving the milk with a fresher taste.

For four years, Deja Moo milk was sold in various retail stores throughout Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. In 2005, Odney approached Wal-Mart about selling his brand in select Supercenters. Although the dairy buyer told him his product was unlikely to get the thumbs-up, Deja Moo milk was approved within seven days.

Unfortunately, around this same time Odney ran into financial problems and was forced to close the creamery down in early 2006. He did not, however, discontinue the Deja Moo brand, nor did he lose contact with Wal-Mart, always planning to one day bring the milk back onto shelves.

That opportunity came with an unlikely partnership between Odney and Pride of Main Street Dairy, a small dairy processing plant in Sauk Centre, Minn.

"I met [Pride of Main Street Dairy] back when I was operating," Odney said. "I was always impressed with their similar product philosophy, which was to make high quality, rBGH-free milk that also uses cold milk separation. Pride of Main Street Dairy is almost identical in commitment and processing."

Odney had the chance to meet with members of Pride of Main Street Dairy again last October. The fit between the two couldn't have been better. Odney needed someone to process, bottle and ship his milk and Pride of Main Street Dairy was looking for another venture to fill in some hours they had available.

Odney's enthusiasm about his product also helped.

"He was so excited about it," said Pride of Main Street's assistant manager, Joan Beilke. "That excitement rubbed off on everyone here."

Beilke has been employed at Pride of Main Street Dairy since 1991 and has served as the assistant manager for the last few years.

The partnership between the entrepreneur and the processing plant was formed in November of 2009. The way the partnership works is that Odney owns the brand, acting as president of Deja Moo Dairy Brands, LLC, and oversees the sales and marketing end of things while Pride of Main Street Dairy buys the raw materials, processes the milk, packages and labels the product before shipping it.

"We want the customers to be happy. We want the best product we can produce going out the door," Beilke said.

The rBGH-free milk for the Deja Moo brand is purchased from Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and comes from farms within a 90-mile radius of Sauk Centre. Currently, the plant is processing nearly 30,000 pounds of raw rBGH-free milk per week; between 50 and 75 percent of that milk is bottled under the Deja Moo brand while the remaining goes to Pride of Main Street products. Deja Moo is bottled in two sizes - three liters and 1.5 liters - as whole milk, two percent, one percent, skim and whole chocolate milk.

Production of Deja Moo milk began on Feb. 8, 2010. On Feb. 10, it could be found on the shelves of three Wal-Mart Supercenters - two in Fargo, N.D., and one in Dilworth, Minn. By the following Tuesday (Feb. 16) one of the three locations had tripled its order.

"It's selling way better than we expected it to," Odney said. "We are very encouraged by this."

If all continues to go well with the brand, Odney has hopes of marketing it nationally. But for now, they are just getting their foot in the door.

"This is just being tested," Odney said. "I'm hoping that the test will yield the results that will let it go to other markets."

"So far, so good," he said.[[In-content Ad]]


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