Haverfordwest Creamery Celebrates A Year of Success


Wales' flagship creamery is celebrating a year of successes under the ownership of the UK's largest farmer-owned co-operative, First Milk.

With a £3 million investment in new whey processing facilities due for completion early in 2008 and a clutch of awards from the cheese show circuit this year, the Haverfordwest creamery at Merlin's Bridge is proud of its achievements in the past 12 months.

And it's set for greater achievements with the launch of the creamery's first organic cheddar, which has just become available in Tesco stores nationwide. A specific recipe has been devised for the organic range.

The Haverfordwest creamery was purchased by First Milk as part of the £62 million deal with Dairy Crest last October. The co-operative, which has over 2600 members throughout the UK, saw the purchase as a perfect opportunity to get closer to the retailer and the consumer. Equally importantly, it provided the chance to pass back greater returns to First Milk's farmer members to enable them to build a sustainable future in the dairy industry.

The Welsh creamery, which employs 67 staff, was a key factor in the purchase, given its location in the heart of a large producer area for First Milk. "We have around 300 producers within a 35 mile radius of the plant so it is a very tight-knit area. Our members are delighted that they own their own creamery right on the doorstep which means transportation costs are kept to a minimum, "explained Haverfordwest general manager, Paul Rowe.

"The quality of the milk we receive here every day is absolutely superb. We require a particular composition of milk for cheese making and we are working in partnership with our members to achieve that. By achieving a better cheese yield, we become more efficient and more profitable and at the end of the day, that means more money is being returned to our members."

When First Milk took over the Haverfordwest site, significant money had already been invested in new processing plant and support services since 2000 which included installation of new state of the art cheese making equipment. In the past year, a further £3 million, which has been part-funded by a Welsh Assembly Government grant of £1.2 million has been spent on replacing whey processing equipment which, in addition to improving the returns the creamery will get for its whey products, will also deliver significant energy savings.

A cheese factory is only as good as the quality of cheese it produces – and there is little doubt that Haverfordwest produces a premium product. Cheese from the creamery has picked up 49 awards at cheese shows up and down the country this year, including 2 Gold Medals at the World Cheese Awards and 13 at last month's prestigious British Cheese Awards.

"Our production staff are skilled artisans and cheese makers, many of whom have made cheese traditionally by hand in the past. Those who have joined the team in recent years also learn to make cheese by hand because it is important that they understand what is going on with a live raw material that they're handling on a daily basis," added Rowe.

Haverfordwest supplies the majority of the key retailers in the UK with private label cheese including Morrisons, ASDA and Tesco, with a number of the products carrying the name of the creamery on the pack.

"We can guarantee 100%Welsh cheese from 100%Welsh milk. Regional provenance is important to consumers who want to know where their cheese is coming from – and that they are supporting local farmers."

He is particularly pleased with the launch of the first organic cheese from the creamery. "Having secured Soil Association accreditation some time ago, we have been making organic cheese to a bespoke recipe and waiting for it to mature. Our Mild Cheddar is now in store and we anticipate our Medium range to be in Tesco in early spring. Organic cheese is a rising market and it ties into regional provenance and a natural taste which is what consumers want. "

Concluded Rowe: "Our achievements in the past year have been great but they are just the beginning of a strong future for Haverfordwest."

Notes to editors
First Milk is the largest dairy farmer co-operative in the UK. Its members' farms stretch from Central Scotland to the South of England, and from West Wales to East Anglia.
The business has three divisions: Milk Operations; Cheese; and Ingredients.
Milk Operations handles approximately two billion litres of milk per annum from around 2600 producers. This milk is supplied to First Milk's cheese business and to many of the leading names in the industry.
The First Milk Cheese Company is the largest UK-based cheese supplier.
First Milk's Ingredients business supplies a range of customers with milk powder and whey products for functional foods, protein drinks, pro-biotics, pre-biotics, pharmaceutical, bakery and confectionary products.
For further information, please contact:

Jill Coyle on 07825 625205