ANTIOCH -- A popular specialty yogurt maker is closing its processing plant here.
Brown Cow Farms has processed yogurt in a nondescript building hidden among medical offices and shops along Delta Fair Boulevard for a quarter of a century. The finished product is shipped to a distribution center near Antioch police headquarters.
But, Brown Cow's parent company, Groupe Danone, announced recently that is it moving operations to Fort Worth, Texas, within its other family of companies.
"After careful consideration, we've adopted a plan to transition production of Brown Cow yogurt from its current location in Antioch, -to a more modernized facility in Texas within our Groupe Danone family of companies," Brown Cow General Manager Steve Jerkins, and Stonyfield Farms Chief Executive Officer Esteve Torrens said in a prepared joint statement.
The closure will likely result in 58 employees at the plant losing jobs, according to a Jan. 29 Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification, or WARN notice, from Stonyfield officials to the state's Workforce Development Department.
"We deeply regret the impact this planned closure will have on our Antioch employees, and we're working diligently to assist them as they look for other employment opportunities both internally and externally," Jerkins and Torrens said in the statement.
Brown Cow moved to Antioch in 1989 from Petaluma. The site was formerly the home of a Honey Hill frozen yogurt plant, and was a processing dairy before that.
Stonyfield Farm purchased the company in 2003, but still produced the Brown Cow brand. Stonyfield sold 80 percent of its shares to Danone a year later.
The Antioch plant pumps out 272 (6-ounce) or 104 (32-ounce) cups of yogurt per minute, and produces about 72,000 cases of yogurt a week. Some Brown Cow products are also produced at a company plant in New Hampshire, Stonyfield officials said.
Company officials said Brown Cow will continue to make its popular yogurt, including its unique "cream top" version, using the same products such as 100 percent fruit and maple sugar.
The plant closure also means the company will not be using raw milk from Northern California dairies.
News of the closure left a sour taste in the mouths of Antioch officials.
Brian Nunnally, Antioch's economic development analyst, said it's unfortunate that a home-grown business that started in the city is now leaving.
Mayor Wade Harper said he immediately contacted company officials to see if anything could be done to keep them in town, but they had "made a business decision."
Harper has since contacted officials with the county's Workforce Development Board to help the employees who will be without work.
The company says it will cooperate with state and local government officials and work with the Teamsters union, which represents 45 of the 58 employees at the plant and distribution center.
No date has been set for the closure, but it is anticipated to begin April 1, according to the WARN letter.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.