Gay Lea Foods provides update on the sale of Thornloe Cheese

By Gay Lea Foods   

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Artist’s rendering of the proposed Thornloe Cheese concept. Image: Gay Lea Foods.

Gay Lea Foods today announced it has entered into a letter of intent to sell Thornloe Cheese to Mississauga, Ontario-based Triple “A” Cheese.

A letter of intent is a non-binding, tentative agreement, which provides Triple “A” Cheese the opportunity to secure financing to construct a new cheesemaking plant near the current location. The proposed terms of sale would see Triple “A” Cheese acquire all Thornloe Cheese assets, including the plant, brand, cheese recipes and plant supply quota.

While this is a private sale and financial terms will not be disclosed, the organizations have agreed to a significantly advantaged sale price for the buyer, as well as deferred payment terms.

“We are pleased to have found a buyer with an innovative vision for Thornloe Cheese,” said Suzanna Dalrymple, president and CEO, Gay Lea Foods. “The current Thornloe Cheese plant requires significant investment and is no longer financially viable. We believe a different concept, and a new facility, are needed for the brand to thrive in Northern Ontario – and we’re hopeful the considerable effort invested in this project – by both organizations – will deliver that outcome.”

A new concept for Thornloe Cheese

The new concept for Thornloe Cheese is likely to include:

  • A larger cheese manufacturing facility, with greater milk receiving capacity, on a more suitable local property, serviced by municipal water supply and wastewater treatment.
  • A tourist and local destination at the new location, complete with a fresh food store, coffee shop or deli restaurant, party rooms, and a vibrant patio and outdoor space.
  • Re-purposing the existing Thornloe Cheese location as a cold storage facility.

Triple “A” Cheese envisions its new operations would eventually employ more than 100 people (double the prior Thornloe Cheese employee population), while providing a permanent facility to process local dairy farmers’ milk.

“All of us at Triple “A” Cheese are excited by the prospect of turning this beloved, local brand into a destination that serves the community and attracts tourism to Northern Ontario,” said Stefano Camaiani, president and CEO, Triple “A” Cheese. “We must caution, however, that this is an ambitious project and there are no shortcuts.  A new facility is needed and comes with significant funding requirements. There remains much work to be done.”

Financing requirements and timing

A key priority is to secure financing to purchase land and build the new facility.  Gay Lea Foods is supporting Triple “A” Cheese in discussions with financiers, including government agencies, to determine their interest in investing in this new concept.

“This has been a collaborative sale process, with both parties working toward a common objective,” said Dalrymple.  “We are pleased to support Triple “A” Cheese in its efforts to bring this exciting new venture to fruition and are hopeful of a positive outcome for local Gay Lea Foods members and the community.”

If financing efforts are successful, the companies expect the sale would close in 2025, with the new plant to open in 2027 or 2028.  Triple “A” Cheese will also explore the possibility of restoring limited interim cheesemaking at the current Thornloe plant, using equipment repurposed from its operations.

All aspects of the sale are contingent upon Triple “A” Cheese securing funding to build a new dairy plant near the current Thornloe Cheese location.

Grassfed milk

Gay Lea Foods will continue skimming grassfed milk at Thornloe Cheese until October 2024, as it has done since the plant stopped making cheese in October 2023.  This premium milk is currently being used to make grassfed butter, with the skim used as part of the conventional milk supply.  In October, Gay Lea Foods will stop receiving grassfed milk at Thornloe Cheese, but will continue paying farmers the grassfed premium until March 31, 2025.

Gay Lea Foods and Triple “A” Cheese will update the community as more is known about the sale of Thornloe Cheese, but encourage patience, as funding such an ambitious project takes time, and the outcome is inherently uncertain.

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