One of Wisconsin's premier goat cheese companies and one of the largest in the country has been sold.

Saputo, based in Montreal, Canada, has purchased Montchevre-Bentin, located in the Lafayette County village of Belmont.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but in a news release, Saputo said that Montchevre employs 319 people and in the 12 months ending on June 30 had revenues of $150 million. Saputo said the purchase "will enable the cheese division of Saputo to broaden its presence in specialty cheese" in the U.S. The transaction is scheduled to close by the end of the year.

Montchevre was founded in 1988 by Michel Betin, Jacqueline Brassier, Arnaud Solandt and Jean Rossard in a 4,000-square-foot former cheddar cheese plant in nearby Preston. Over the last 29 years the company has continued to grow and expand as artisan cheese has taken off and goat cheese in particular has become more in demand among home consumers and culinary experts. Montchevre also produces a full line of organic goat cheese and is the only U.S. manufacturer to produce non-GMO certified goat cheese.

Solandt, who along with Rossard took control of the company and its stock in the early 2000s, said the decision to sell was not easy. 

"The decision to proceed with the sale of the company we’ve built is not a selfish one," Solandt wrote on the Montchevre website. "It is based on the conviction that this alliance will provide a stronger, more secure market for our 500 plus milk producers and will help propel Montchevre to new heights."

Solandt said that there will be "logical" integration of the business and that Montchevre will become the flagship of Saputo's Goat Cheese Division. Montchevre has worked with Saputo for several years. 

"We have grown fond of Saputo’s ethics and their commitment to quality," Solandt, wrote. "It is their vision for the future that has led us to this decision."

Wisconsin is one of the top state's in the U.S. for goat milk production while Montchevre has been a perennial favorite at cheese competitions.

In March, at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest in Green Bay, Montchevre took best in class with a truffle cheese in the flavored soft category, a blueberry vanilla in the flavored soft with condiments class and first in the semi-soft and flavored semi-soft categories. At the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Montchevre also cleaned up with several first place finishes. They included a sun-dried tomato and basil in the flavored soft goat's milk cheese category made by Alicia Rogers taking four of the top five spots in flavored goats milk cheese with sweet condiments. Dennis Cardy won the class with a Rondin honey entry, while Percy Mendoza placed second in the class with a cranberry cinnamon goat's cheese.

Saputo is one of the top 10 dairy processors in the world and is the largest cheese manufacturer and the leading fluid milk and cream processor in Canada. In the U.S., Saputo ranks among the top three cheese producers and is one of the largest producers of extended shelf-life and cultured dairy products, according to the company.

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