First Milk is investing in the future of its Rothesay creamery and its farmer members on Bute by installing state-of-the-art equipment, which will enable whey to be processed at the site for the first time.
First Milk's investment has been supported by Highlands & Islands Enterprise which has contributed more than £180,000 to the project.
More than 2,000 tonnes of cheese, including the renowned Isle of Bute brand, is produced at Rothesay each year for The Scottish Highlands and Islands Cheese Company, owned by First Milk.
Following the completion of the project works, the whey will be concentrated at the Rothesay creamery before being transported to First Milk's ingredients facility in North Wales, where it will be converted into lactose powder for sale across the globe.
Jeff Halliwell, Managing Director of First Milk's cheese business, explained: "In the past, whey – a by-product of cheese manufacturing – had little value. However this situation has changed significantly and there is now a global demand for the product which can be used as an ingredient in a wide range of products including confectionery and the ready meals market.
"It therefore makes good business sense to make this investment at Rothesay now and capitalise on the market opportunities which we can ultimately return to our farmer members.
"This project could not have progressed without the financial support from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and we have worked in partnership to ensure the right outcome for our business and for the future of dairy farming on Bute."
Ken Abernethy, Area Director for Highlands & Islands Enterprise, added: "Rothesay Creamery is at the heart of dairy farming on Bute and on the Cowal Peninsula and its success is crucial for the economy of Argyll & the Islands. Our support for this key project demonstrates our long-term commitment to agriculture and, in particular, dairy farming in this area."
Rothesay General Manager, John Miller, said the investment is good news for the 18 staff at the creamery: "We have been producing award-winning cheese in Rothesay for almost 50 years and now, we will also be able to produce an added-value product. This investment further underlines First Milk's commitment to the creamery and the local area."
Bute farmer Duncan Lyon is one of 18 First Milk producers supplying the creamery: "Coupled with the milk price increases, this development at the creamery gives Bute farmers confidence for the future. We are happy with the direction that First Milk is taking with the Rothesay facility and we are optimistic for the future."
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 1.8 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. The Scottish Highlands and Islands Cheese Company is wholly owned by First Milk and markets award-winning cheeses from the Isle of Bute, Mull of Kintyre and Isle of Arran.
First Milk's Ingredients business supplies a range of customers with milk powder and whey products for functional foods, protein drinks, pro-biotics and pre-biotics. Whey is a by-product of cheese making and is formed when the curds separate from the milk. Once the cheese curds are formed, the remaining liquid is called whey.
For further information, please contact:
Jill Coyle on 07825 625205