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Eberhard's Dairy Products, 61 Years Of Excellence
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For 61 years when Central Oregonians have gone to their local grocery store and reached for a gallon of milk, a quart of ice cream, a tub of cottage cheese, or sour cream, what name do you think comes to mind? Well, Eberhard’s Dairy Products of course.

Founded in 1951, Eberhard’s Dairy Products was originally a cream buying station. But in 1953, founder Jack Eberhard Sr. purchased the current building and began making butter. During the years 1953 thru 1963 the company was known as Eberhard’s Heart of Oregon.

“My father and mother started the business in 1951, Jack and Nelda Eberhard,” commented company President, Bob Eberhard. “And at that time it was the Swiftan Company Cream Station. So then in 1953 dad bought the building and put in the churn. First item we made was butter. In 1955 we started making roller processed dry milk, buying manufacturing grade milk and then separating it, the cream went to butter, and the skim milk went to dry milk. We did that until about 1965, then started making cottage cheese and in 1967 started processing milk and making ice cream. By 1967 we became a full processing plant. I became in involved in August of 1951, along with my brother Jack. My dad would go and pick up cream out in the countryside and my mom worked in the office and Jack and I would come down and wash the cans after school. That was the size of the organization.”

Today, Eberhard’s Dairy Products employs 50 Central Oregonians and is hoping to be employing more in the future.

The only milk processing plant east of the Cascades, Eberhard’s processes Milk, Chocolate Milk, Buttermilk, Sour Cream, and Cottage Cheese. Eberhard’s Dairy Products differentiates itself from other producers by buying only the highest quality raw milk from two producers in Central Oregon and farmers in southwest Washington.

“We have two Grade A producers in Central Oregon and we pick that up ourselves.” said Eberhard. “Then we have a contract with the Oregon Milk Marketing Federation. We have our own tanker that picks up the milk and is back here at 6:00 a.m., to unload and process that day, so it’s good fresh milk. The fresher the milk the lower the bacteria counts. The lower the bacteria counts the better shelf life you have. All the farmers we deal with receive a bonus if their bacteria counts are below a certain level, so if you’re good farmers they want to get the best return they can and sell the milk that doesn’t have growth hormones and also has lower bacteria counts.”

Eberhard’s Dairy Products, also prides itself in only buying Milk that doesn’t have any growth hormone or other additives.

“The milk that we buy doesn’t have any of the growth hormone additives and so we actually pay a premium for that milk but we feel that it’s worthwhile because that’s what the customer wants. The customers want as pure a product as they can possibly buy.

And we also have the white jug, and the white jug is important because milk does not like light. Whether its sunlight or artificial light, milk starts to lose some of the vitamins and you it starts to get flavor defects, but with with the white jug we have better flavor and vitamin retention.” said Eberhard.

In addition to the milk, sour cream, and cottage cheese products Eberhard’s Diary Products manufactures, it also produces 20 different flavors of it’s renowned ice cream.

“What we do is make two different ice cream bases, we make a plain that we make all of our vanilla products with. And then make a chocolate base and do our regular chocolate and our ‘Death by Chocolate’ which is our most popular chocolate. It’s chocolate ice cream with chocolate truffles, chocolate almonds, chocolate flakes, and chocolate sauce, if you’re a chocoholic you’re going to love it. Vanilla is still our most popular flavor and that is about 40% of our sales. In our Strawberry Ice cream we only use northwest strawberries because they’re more colorful and more flavorful than the California Strawberries.”

Also looking for ways to brand the company, Eberhard’s decided that it was time to come up with a logo or ‘icon’ that would immediately identify the brand.

“About six years ago we decided we needed an icon, and thought since we’re in the dairy business we thought a cow would be nice, but we needed a nice friendly cow. Then we thought it needed a name so we came up with a contest. The winning prize was a week in Hawaii and we got over 1500 entrants. But we wanted a name we could use in our advertising, was catchy, we wanted it on our trucks so when people see it or hear it then they know exactly what it is and can relate it to Eberhard’s Dairy Products.”

Serving the tri-county area of Deschutes, Jefferson, and Crook Counties, Eberhard’s Dairy Products can also be found as far away as Chemult, John Day, and Burns. As the company continues to grow, expect to see Eberhard’s Dairy Products in other areas of the Northwest.

“We don’t have any plans to go nationwide at this point. About the only way to do that is to go by brokers and distributors. But we feel that there is opportunities in the state of Washington because there are no major ice cream manufacturers in the state of Washington. Our main goal has always been to grow faster than Central Oregon. As Central Oregon slowed down on it’s growth, about four years ago we looked around and said ‘what can we do to grow our business?’ and that’s when we started branching out and supplying other dairies and other distributors so that we could keep moving ahead.

You’ve always got to move ahead because if you’re not moving ahead you’re just standing still and your going behind. So it’s always been our goal to continue to move ahead.”

On the economy and what it takes to maintain a successful business, Eberhard commented.

“You do what you have to do to make it work. My father was born and raised in Switzerland and came to the US in 1926 $300 in the hole. He borrowed the money from a couple of uncles and got over here and that’s how he started out, and he’d work seven days a week. For the better part of 15 years I was also making all of the sales calls and was the backup delivery person when we did home deliveries. I was working 80-90 hours a week.”

A very healthy and active 79 year old, Bob Eberhard is a man who looks and acts like a man easily 10 years younger than his age, and continues to look forward to the future for both himself and for Eberhard’s Dairy Products.

“What we’ve done is restructured in the last three years so Mark my nephew is the general manager and has taken over some of the major accounts as well. My plans for the future are to do what I want to do. And so that’s always been my goal.”

With a firm management structure in place it looks like buyers of world class dairy products in Central Oregon and beyond and look forward to at least another 61 years or seeing Eberhard’s Dairy Products at their local grocery.

Street Talk

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