Jeff Kleinpeter is stepping down as president and chief executive officer of the family-owned Kleinpeter Farms Dairy after spending more than a month on a sabbatical.
Sue Anne Kleinpeter Cox, his sister who has served as chief financial officer for the past 28 years, will succeed Kleinpeter as president and CEO. Kenny Kleinpeter, who in September returned to the Baton Rouge business after his retirement, will continue as general manager.
In a letter sent to the press, Jeff Kleinpeter, 56, said he “felt like it was time to pass the baton to some other family members.” He had been president and CEO of the dairy since October 2004.
Kleinpeter dealt last year with complaints of some milk having a funny taste and turning sour before its expiration date. An inspection found an equipment malfunction was letting diluted soapy water remain in tanks after they were cleaned, which was causing the strange taste. The equipment was replaced and new procedures were put in place.
Kleinpeter Farms Dairy said it spent “in the neighborhood of $3 million“ replacing equipment, hiring a full-time sanitation manager and sending employees to rigorous national training programs. The dairy also decided recently to exit the ice cream business, after launching the line in 2008. The company spent about $3 million expanding its Airline Highway dairy to formulate and manufacture ice cream, which accounted for about 3 percent of sales.
The stress brought on by the milk complaints and lost business took its toll on Jeff Kleinpeter. Kleinpeter said he averaged three hours of sleep a night during the past year.
“It was worth it to work with our team and achieve the goal of getting our quality back to ‘better than ever’ status,” he said.
Jeff Kleinpeter said his retirement will give him an opportunity to step out and find out “what it is like to work something resembling normal hours!”
“I’m also glad I have the opportunity to step out at a young enough age to continue my career in other areas knowing our company is in good hands,” he said. “I’ve got two great opportunities on the table and I’m thrilled to be able to share my expertise managing a company with other companies.”
Jeff Kleinpeter said he will remain connected to Kleinpeter, both as a member of the dairy’s board of directors and as a customer.
Cox, 58, worked alongside three of the company’s previous presidents during her 38 years at the dairy: her father, Ben Kleinpeter, the late Thomas Zicarelli and her brother Jeff. Cox on Wednesday credited her brother for his 38 years of service to the business.
“All of us at Kleinpeter Dairy thank Jeff for his many years of hard work and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Cox said.
Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has about 140 employees. The company’s milk, cream, butter and orange juice are sold throughout Louisiana and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Karen Summerville has been hired as senior accountant for the dairy.