Fonterra Cooperative Group is buying into Oregon-based whey protein concentrate and lactose manufacturer Columbia River Technologies in a bid to secure its US-sourcing network. No price was disclosed.

Columbia River Technologies, which was originally founded in 2013 as a joint venture between Tillamook County Creamery Association and Threemile Canyon Farms, has been producing high-quality whey protein products for the past five years in Boardman, Oregon. Fonterra has had the exclusive sales agency for these products since 2013, the year its own whey protein concentrate supply chain came under scrutiny over ultimately unfounded fears it was tainted. The New Zealand firm will join the joint venture with an equal shareholding.

Fonterra regional director ingredients America Joe Coote said joining the venture as an equal shareholder was a natural progression of its long-term relationship with TCCA and Threemile Canyon Farms. It enables Fonterra to meet growing demand for ingredients such as whey protein from places outside New Zealand, he said.

"The agreement reflects Fonterra's move to develop a sustainable US-sourcing network, providing a reliable and efficient chain of supply, and complementing New Zealand-sourced ingredients for our sports and infant nutrition customers," said Coote.

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TCCA president and chief executive Patrick Criteser said the joint venture aligned with TCCA's strategy to responsibly use the by-products of its primary cheese-making business and continue to create value for its farmer-owners.

"We're pleased to further strengthen our existing relationship with Fonterra, an organisation that understands the cooperative mindset and brings significant expertise in the area of whey products."

The deal "leverages each company's expertise and resources, and reinforces an already strong alliance for future strategic growth," says Marty Myers, general manager of Threemile Canyon Farms.