JEROME, Idaho — Idaho Milk Products, claiming the title of the country’s largest supplier of milk proteins, celebrated another milestone Oct. 23 with the official opening of its new technical center in Jerome.
Launched five years ago by three of the largest independently owned and operated dairies in the U.S., IMP supplies milk protein isolate, milk protein concentrate, milk permeate, and cream to global food and nutrition companies.
The company operates in a modern, 17,000-square-foot facility but has grown to the point that it needed more space and more capabilities, said Kent Giddings, IMP general manager and a chemical engineer with more than 30 years in the food ingredient industry.
“We were bursting at the seams in some areas and also wanted to create internal research and development,” he said.
The company found an 8,000-square-foot building already equipped with laboratories just down the road from its processing plant and brought in an architect to design a modern and efficient interior.
The building will house the company’s marketing, sales and customer-service division, a large quality assurance lab for microbiological testing and an area for research and product development equipped with state-of-the-art technology, he said.
It will also contain a backup and secondary location for information technology, streaming real-time data from the plant to the tech center, as well as storage for accounting records and product samplings, he said.
Food products have to be tested before they are released to customers, and the company performs more than 2,000 certified individualized analyses daily. And as customers become more sophisticated, they require more and more testing for quality assurance, Giddings said.
“You can’t underestimate the importance of quality assurance in a food plant,” he said.
The tech center will also allow the company to do its own research and product development to improve the functionality of its products and customize them to customers’ needs, he said.
To that end, IMP has hired a PhD dairy processing scientist out of California Polytechnic State University to head up R&D and three degreed specialist to serve as research scientists.
IMP processes 3 million pounds of milk a day (1.1 billion pounds annually) and produces 200 million pounds of product a year, including four tanks of cream a day.
It supplies its IdaPro products around the world to five main markets — yogurt, cheese, sports nutrition, adult clinical nutrition, and weight management — four of which are high-growth market, Giddings said.
“There seems to be almost an insatiable demand for milk protein globally,” he said.
IMP employs 118 people and contributes $13 million annually to the local economy, he said.
The company is owned by Aardema, Bettencourt and Big Sky dairies.