Jacksonville-based Darifair Foods, a culinary and food science company, laid the foundation stone for its 47,500-square-foot corporate headquarters and innovation center at the Flagler Center in South Jacksonville on October 27th.
Andy Block, CEO of Darifair, called it a new era for the company.
“Our family has owned and operated food and dairy businesses for five generations, but the Darifair we know today is completely different from the one we started 35 years ago,” he said in a press release.
Darifair described the facility as “an integral part of Darifair’s future growth strategy since partnering with private equity firm Arbor Investments” in 2019.
“We have advanced in many ways and Arbor supports our vision of continuous innovation. This facility is a great allusion to that commitment. “
The Block family founded and continues to run the privately owned Darifair.
Andy Block, CEO of Darifair, at the groundbreaking October 27th.
Arbor Investments, with offices in Chicago and New York, announced on May 1, 2019 that it had invested in the company.
Founded in 1999, Arbor Investments is a private equity firm focused on acquiring leading companies in the food, beverage and related industries. It has acquired or invested in more than 80 companies in North America.
Darifair’s headquarters and center is under development at 13129 Flagler Center Blvd. on northeast Gran Bay Parkway and Flagler Center Boulevard.
The Flagler Center office and industrial park is south of Old St. Augustine Road between Interstate 95 and the Philips Highway.
Jacksonville-based Stellar is planning and building the facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.
Darifair limited the groundbreaking event to department heads of the company and a few key members of Arbor Investments and Stellar. Darifair employees could watch TV.
The headquarters will include “socially distant workplaces, spacious meeting rooms and a large entertainment area on the roof”.
Block said the family has a rich history in food innovation “dating back to the 1940s when Aaron Block co-founded Reddi-wip in Jacksonville, Florida.”
He said Max Block opened the first ultra-high temperature dairy in the U.S. in the 1960s, extending the shelf life of dairy products from 14 to 60 days.
The press release states that when Darifair was founded in 1985, it became the first national milk supplier to be chartered.
“Today, still under the leadership of the Block family, Darifair has expanded its range and developed culinary and food science solutions for restaurants and manufacturers,” says the press release.
Alan Weed, partner at Arbor Investments
Alan Weed, partner at Arbor Investments, said the group has “a history of transformative investing in our portfolio companies”.
“The establishment of a new greenfield headquarters shows how optimistic we are about Darifair’s future,” he said, referring to the new building.
“This flagship facility will not only help accelerate Darifair’s already impressive growth record, it will also continue the legacy of the Block family,” he said.
The press release states that the innovation center’s research and development laboratory is the most compelling aspect of the project.
The laboratory has a functioning test kitchen and a separate show kitchen, a pilot system, a quality control laboratory and an integrated department for sensor technology and market research.
“This innovation center consolidates our industry leadership,” said Block.
He said the building will allow the Darifair team and customers to develop and test product-specific applications “at unprecedented speed while providing unmatched access to market data and customer insights that are critical to product development.”
Darifair Foods manufactures and supplies dairy products such as creams, cottage cheese, yogurt, liquid creams, milk, ice cream, yogurt smoothies, sauces and other dairy products to customers in the United States
Darifair said it is a “leading culinary partner providing insightful concepts and breakthrough food solutions for restaurants, retailers and manufacturers in the United States.”
Block said Darifair has the talent and technology and will soon have the opportunity to “deliver tomorrow’s food innovations.”
The new headquarters will house functions such as marketing, sales, customer service, research and development, finance, supply chain and IT.
The areas will include new offices, “socially detached workplaces, spacious meeting rooms and a large entertainment area on the roof,” the press release said.
Midd McManus, president of Darifair, said the company is building with workforce growth in mind.
From left: Bill Block, CFO of Darifair, Jeffrey Block, Executive Vice President, and Andy Block, CEO.
“This new facility gives us space to meet our future organizational needs for many years to come,” he said.
Darifair has 58 employees and the company is planning to grow and is about to hire.
Darifair paid $ 2.1 million for the Flagler Center development site on Jan. 23.
The city issued a foundation permit on August 18 and a building permit on September 28 for the structure on approximately 5.06 hectares.
The permit shows construction costs of $ 13 million.
Darifair is based in Mandarin at 4131 Sunbeam Road, which is located in a 13,500 square foot office building.
Darifair’s online story states that Aaron Block and Aaron Lapin co-founded Reddi-wip in Jacksonville in 1948.
Lapin in St. Louis invented Reddi-Wip and Block became the southeastern manufacturer and supplier.
Executives from Arbor Investments and Darifair are leaving the new headquarters.