Norcross-based AtlantaFresh Artisan Creamery announced Friday, March 2, that it can’t survive the cancellation of a contract with Whole Foods Market and is shutting down this month.

CEO Ron Marks, who is Jewish, said the company laid off 32 employees while winding down operations. AtlantaFresh, whose focus was Greek yogurt, was profitable for nine years until Whole Foods canceled a seven-year purchasing contract in September. Whole Foods was AtlantaFresh’s biggest customer and had carried the products of the small business for eight years, but, as the AJT reported last fall, that relationship ended after Amazon bought the grocery chain.

Whole Foods was carrying AtlantaFresh Greek yogurt in 180 stores across 20 states and was the creamery’s primary customer when it proposed also using AtlantaFresh as a supplier of certified non-GMO milk and cream for 110 stores. Whole Foods lent AtlantaFresh $500,000, and the creamery took on an additional $2 million in debt to double the size of its production facility to fulfill the contract to supply 30,000 gallons of milk per week.

AtlantaFresh started delivering the milk in July 2016 but found itself drowning in debt and excess capacity when Whole Foods canceled the contract. AtlantaFresh tried to boost sales to Publix and other groceries, but the efforts weren’t sufficient.

Marks said in a news release that Whole Foods senior management had discussed a financial settlement to help AtlantaFresh survive but did not follow through.

Another victim of the canceled contract is Hart Agriculture, the dairy farmer contracted to supply milk to AtlantaFresh. It closed Newberry Farm, its grass-fed, certified 100 percent non-GMO dairy farm in Waynesboro, because of the lost business.