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Gay Lea Foods signs tentative agreement to sell Thornloe Cheese

Ontario-based Triple “A” Cheese seeks financing to close deal
Jillian Morgan, female, digital editor for Canadian Grocer
thornloe cheese facility rendering
Artist’s rendering of the proposed Thornloe Cheese concept. Photography courtesy Gay Lea Foods

Gay Lea Foods has signed a tentative agreement to sell Thornloe Cheese to Mississauga, Ont.-based Triple “A” Cheese.

The company has entered into a letter of intent which provides Triple “A” Cheese the opportunity to secure financing to construct a new cheesemaking plant near the current location.

Proposed terms of the sale would see Triple “A” Cheese acquire all Thornloe Cheese assets, including the plant, brand, cheese recipes and plant supply quota.

Financial terms of the private sale will not be disclosed.

“We are pleased to have found a buyer with an innovative vision for Thornloe Cheese,” said Suzanna Dalrymple, president and CEO, Gay Lea Foods, in a release.  “The current Thornloe Cheese plant requires significant investment and is no longer financially viable. We believe a different concept, and a new facility, are needed for the brand to thrive in Northern Ontario—and we’re hopeful the considerable effort invested in this project—by both organizations—will deliver that outcome.”

Gay Lea said the new concept for Thronloe Cheese is likely to include a larger cheese manufacturing facility, accompanied by a fresh food store, coffee shop or deli restaurant, party rooms and a patio and outdoor space.

The existing location is expected to be repurposed as a cold storage facility.

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thornloe cheese
Artist’s rendering of the proposed Thornloe Cheese concept. Photography courtesy Gay Lea Foods

Triple “A” Cheese envisions its new operations would eventually employ more than 100 people.

“All of us at Triple “A” Cheese are excited by the prospect of turning this beloved, local brand into a destination that serves the community and attracts tourism to Northern Ontario,” stated Stefano Camaiani, president and CEO, Triple “A” Cheese. “We must caution, however, that this is an ambitious project and there are no shortcuts.  A new facility is needed and comes with significant funding requirements. There remains much work to be done.”

If financing efforts are successful, the companies expect the sale would close in 2025, with the new plant to open in 2027 or 2028.  

Triple “A” Cheese will also explore the possibility of restoring limited interim cheesemaking at the current Thornloe plant, using equipment repurposed from its operations.

Gay Lea Foods will continue skimming grassfed milk at Thornloe Cheese until October 2024, as it has done since the plant stopped making cheese in October 2023. The milk is currently being used to make grassfed butter, with the skim used as part of the conventional milk supply. 

In October, Gay Lea Foods will stop receiving grassfed milk at Thornloe Cheese, but the company says it will continue paying farmers the grassfed premium until March 31, 2025.

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