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Major dairy co-operative First Milk invests in cheese packing rebuild

By Ben Bouckley , 07-Mar-2012
Last updated the 08-Mar-2012 at 13:17 GMT

UK dairy co-operative First Milk claims that a £17m investment to redevelop its cheese packing and storage site, in a move that it said would spur future growth for brands such as Lake District Cheddar.

The Glasgow-based company (€564m or €672m turnover: 2011), said that its Maelor packing site near Wrexham, North Wales, would be redesigned and rebuilt – it is scheduled for completion next Autumn – while UK storage and distribution firm Grocontinental will also redevelop a cold store on the same premises to house all of First Milk’s maturing cheese.

First Milk communications manager, Cleo Comerford, told DairyReporter.com that planning permission was approved by Wrexham Borough Council’s planning committee on Monday evening.

She said: “One of the major redevelopment plans is the maturation and storage being [moved] on site. Currently, the maturation storage centre is in Whitchurch, so being on site will naturally increase efficiencies in getting the cheese to the packaging facility.”

Space for branded cheese growth 

The company would also be able to pack more cheese on site, Comerford said, and asked which First Milk brands this might benefit, she added: “For a growing brand such as our Lake District Cheddar, for example, this prepares for future growth.

“In just a few years this has become a £70m brand according to the latest Kantar Worldpanel data, and is currently the number four pre-packed cheddar in the UK," Comerford said.

“As well as growth, the brand has also diversified over this time, introducing portions and grated in 2011, as well as a mild variant. A new vintage variant was also launched in January.”

First Milk manufacturing director, Paul Rowe, said: “This redevelopment builds on the significant investment in new technology at the site over the past 18 months.”

Rowe said that retail customers – the likes of Asda, Morrisons, and The Co-Operative – were positive about the rebuild, and could see “clear benefits…in terms of workflows, efficiencies and the scope it provides to increase production”.

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