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Sauk Center organic milk could become a Walmart staple

Jim Odney pours a glass of his Deja Moo milk, which is available at Walmart stores in the area. David Samson / The Forum

You might experience some déjà vu with Deja Moo.

Fargo native Jim Odney, who first brought his Deja Moo milk to Fargo-Moorhead in 2001, has reintroduced the product in the metro area.

"I have a real affinity for milk and this product," said Odney, who shut down Deja Moo in 2006 because of financial problems.

Now, Deja Moo - made with milk from cows that haven't been injected with growth hormone - is sold exclusively at Walmart stores in Fargo and Dilworth.

The test marketing could lead to Deja Moo being sold at other Walmart stores in North Dakota and Minnesota and beyond, Odney said.

"We're excited to have Deja Moo in our store, and we'll do everything we can to help it succeed," said John Pies, manager of the Walmart store near the intersection of Interstate 29 and 52nd Avenue South in Fargo.

Odney, who once operated advertising agencies in Bismarck and Minneapolis, has long wanted to establish a national milk brand.

He bought the former Enoch Schultz Creamery in Bismarck in the late 1990s, and used it to help launch Deja Moo a few years later.

But renovating the Bismarck plant and bringing it up to code became too expensive, and Odney had to shut down the plant and Deja Moo in early 2006.

Just before he shut down, however, Walmart showed interest in carrying his product.

Odney, now an investment banker in Minneapolis, stayed in touch with Walmart while continuing to pursue restarting Deja Moo.

He eventually connected with the small Pride of Main Street Dairy in Sauk Centre, Minn.

Milk processed at the plant comes from dairy producers in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Officials with the Sauk Centre plant liked Odney's enthusiasm and the Deja Moo concept, said Joan Beilke, a dairy farmer and an assistant plant manager.

Pride of Main Street Dairy processes milk in a way that makes it taste fresher than other types of milk, Beilke and Odney say.

Marketing for Deja Moo stresses its fresher taste and the fact that it uses milk from cows that haven't been injected with growth hormones.

The absence of growth hormones is important to some consumers, he said.

Odney said he and the owners of the Sauk Centre plant are now partners in Deja Moo.

The price of Deja Moo is comparable to that of other milk brands, he said.

Deja Moo's name is a play on déjà vu, the sense of having experienced something before.

Odney is toying with the idea of asking retired baseball great Yogi Berra - who once uttered the classic line "It's déjà vu all over again" - to do a commercial for Deja Moo.

"That would really be fun," Odney said.

The decade-long effort to establish Deja Moo has brought frustration and temporary failures, Odney said.

Even so, "I've always believed in this product," he said.