One of the top 10 advertising icons of the 20th century belongs to a company that filed for bankruptcy on Monday. Borden Dairy Co. is following in the footsteps of No. 1 milk producer Dean Foods, which did the same in November. CNN reports the company cited the burden of its debt load and pension obligations in its filing, but also pointed to larger industry issues: a 6% decrease in the amount of milk America has consumed since 2015 and a consistent shrinking of the number of family dairy farms here. As the AP explains, the farms that remain have upped their prices, but Borden hasn't been able to pass that increase on to consumers for fear of getting crushed by competitors like Walmart, which opened a milk processing plant of its own in 2018.
"This was our final resort," CEO Tony Sarsam told the Washington Post. The company has been in operation for 163 years—since prior to the Civil War. Gail Borden figured out how to condense milk on a commercial scale in 1856, opened a plant five years later in New York, and became a supplier to the Union Army. The company's mascot, Elsie the Cow, entered the public consciousness in 1936. It got the top-10 icon nod from AdAge in 2000. Borden's filing says it will keep operating during the bankruptcy process, but it doesn't share details on its long-term intentions. Numbers-wise, Borden produces almost half-a-billion gallons of milk annually. In 2018 its net sales were $1.2 billion, but it saw a net loss of $14.6 million. The net loss for 2019 through Dec. 7 stood at $42.4 million. (Read more dairy stories.)