Irish cheese and ingredients company Glanbia, together with its US joint venture partner Greater Southwest Agency, plan to invest US$90m in expanding the cheese and whey business, Southwest Cheese.

The New Mexico plant was commissioned in October 2006 and is now operating at full capacity, processing over 1.3bn litres of milk annually, producing 136,000 tonnes of cheese and 9,000 tonnes of whey ingredients.

“Southwest Cheese is operationally excellent and has performed strongly – which is a great tribute to our joint venture partner, the people, plant and processes. Against this background and bearing in mind that markets for American-style cheddar cheese and high protein whey product are growing, combined with consistently strong milk supply in the region, we felt there was a strong rationale for expansion,” Glanbia MD John Moloney said.

“Scale production is a key platform in our growth strategy and Glanbia is very pleased with the progress of Southwest Cheese. We are confident that it will continue to grow and build on its successful track record,” Moloney added.

The investment will increase the US plant’s capacity by 33% to over 1.75bn litres of milk, 181,000 tonnes of cheese and 12,000 tonnes of value added whey products.

The plant is expected to begin operating at expanded capacity next year, Glanbia said.