It said in a press release that it plans to use the bankruptcy process to continue running its business, address debt, and pay now unfunded pensions to its employees.
"Despite our best efforts to make our business more agile and cost-efficient, we continue to be impacted by a challenging operating environment marked by continuing declines in consumer milk consumption", Eric Beringause, who became president and CEO three months ago, said in a statement.
And so Dean Foods, the largest USA milk producer, announced this morning that it has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
According to Nielsen data, US sales of oat milk rose 636% to more than $52 million just in the past year.
That there are so many beverage choices now doesn't help either-bottled waters (flavored or plain, with bubbles or without), juices (cold-pressed or traditional), teas (regular, green, black, red), sodas (old-school, craft, diet).
Davis Polk & Wardwell and Norton Rose Fulbright are serving as legal advisers to Dean Foods, while Evercore is serving as an investment banker, and Alvarez & Marsal is its financial adviser.
More recently, health and animal-welfare concerns have also contributed, as more shoppers seek out non-dairy alternatives. "We remain dedicated to our mission of making dairy alternative food and beverage products that deliver a plant-based mighty bundle of nutrition", he said.
Sales of cow's milk have dropped an average of 6% per year over the last four years, Nielsen said. United States butter and cheese consumption is up since 1996, for example.
It also had an outsize effect on Dean Foods, which derived 67% of its sales from fluid milk past year, according to its annual report.
The Dallas-based company's brands include DairyPure, TruMoo, Land O'Lakes, Country Fresh, Dean's, Garelick Farms, and Friendly's.
Dean employs 16,000 people and operates 60 processing facilities across the country. It lost money in eight of the last 10 quarters. One big blow came previous year, when Walmart opened its own milk processing plant in Indiana.
"That means products from the Dean Foods family of brands, including Meadow Gold, will continue to be available across Idaho", she said. The new, larger company assumed the Dean name and bought several other milk producers. It was bought by Suiza Foods in 2001.