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Ice Cream Demand Fueled 2020 Growth For Metro East's Prairie Farms Dairy

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Prairie Farms
The Aberles from Tremont, Illinois, are one of Prairie Farms' farm families.

In April of last year, St. Louis on the Air checked in with a small dairy farm in Greenville, Illinois, to see how it was handling unpredictable product demand as the pandemic closed restaurants and upended supply chains. Rolling Lawns Farm was celebrating 100 years in business and reported that, if anything, demand for its milk had increased.

This week, we checked in with the region’s largest dairy distributor: Prairie Farms Dairy. Headquartered in Edwardsville, Illinois, the locally owned cooperative includes 800 dairy farms. It experienced a surge of demand and increased product production in 2020 — and expects the trend to continue in 2021.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Prairie Farms representative Darin Copeland discussed the initial impact of the pandemic on the company’s production, which Prairie Farms products have proven pandemic popular and how its farmers have been able to keep up a new set of demands.

Copeland credited quarantine baking as a contributing factor to the company’s increased production.

“There was a huge increase in products related to baking,” he said. “We saw a lot of interest in things like butter, sour cream and cream cheese, staples in the kitchen for baking. And we also saw an increase in sales for items related to indulgence, such as ice cream.”

Items in the baking/cooking category saw year-over-year gain of nearly 40%, Copeland said. So did ice cream and other frozen products.

“So there was that segment of consumers who were interested in comfort food indulgence and nostalgia, and in an odd kind of way, those events all combined to help us close out 2020 with solid retail volume growth. That was something I don't think we could have expected this time last year.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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