O'Fallon Progress

Pet Dairy wins Beautification Award from Chamber of Commerce

The dairy cow is still perched on the roof-top overlook, keeping an eye on the goings on on East State Street but just about everything else about the look of Pet Dairy has changed. A derelict building has been torn down and replaced.

The street-side façade has been updated. Truck parking areas are surrounded by stone accented fencing. Manicured landscaping is in place.

A $4 million renovation to the plant, inside and out, is the result of growing business, said Brett Johnson, vice president of operations. Pet Dairy is a part of the Dean Foods, one of America’s leading food and beverage companies.

Pet Dairy is a long-time O’Fallon landmark located in east O’Fallon in an area zoned heavy commercial. But the company’s effort to blend its plant aesthetically into a neighborhood of homes and apartments has earned it the 2013 Chamber of Commerce award for beautification.

“We acquired a good bit of new business and had to expand the plant," said Johnson. “I have to say the city was very accommodating and we want to be a good corporate citizen."

It has been 40 years since the plant had been expanded. Architects from Chicago and the O’Fallon area worked on the project.

“The fencing wasn’t designed to keep people out but to blend in on main road. We wanted to improve our image," said Johnson.

“The St. Louis market is one of the growth areas in our business. O’Fallon is a great location, near the people who buy our products and near the farms."

Ted Shekell, the city’s planning director praised Pet for their work.

“They have spent $4 million in upgrading their facility’s cold storage and dock facilities and on facade improvements. We think they did a great job.”

Pet Dairy’s origins date back to 1885 when Swiss immigrant, John Meyenberg, brought a revolutionary process for canning milk to Highland, Illinois. His company was called the Helvetia Milk Condensing Company.

It quickly gained a reputation, particularly in the South, as a substitute for fresh milk where there was little refrigeration, and as a safe, wholesome and convenient baby food.

When the company began packaging the condensed milk in baby-sized cans in 1894, the employees nicknamed the package "pet" evaporated cream, and that's how the PET brand was originated.

In 1929, Helvetia purchased a fluid milk processing plant in Johnson City, Tennessee, and The PET Dairy Products Company was founded. Soon after, the company acquired their first ice cream plant in nearby Greeneville, Tennessee.

PET Dairy grew quickly, as a number of other dairy operations were promptly acquired and new plants constructed. And, with the help of some innovative marketing, including popular radio shows and even a line of children's books devoted to PET products, PET became a household name in the South, as did classic products like PET Brown Mules.

Rapid technological advances in transportation and refrigeration allowed PET to expand, delivering PET fresh products to more and more customers.