Milk Link is the UK's largest producer of UHT milk, and the loss of the contract was a major blow for Celsis at a time when it was facing substantial financial losses. However, over the last four years, the group has undergone a major restructuring, including centralising its research and development unit in Germany, and hopes that winning back the Milk Link contract will mark a turning point in the dairy industry.
But Celsis' gain is Biotrace's loss. The company estimates that the loss of the Milk Link contract this week will mean a drop in sales of at least £57,000, although the company played down the likely impact of the lost contract on its full-year results.
Under the terms of the new agreement, Celsis will test the UHT milk produced at three Milk Link facilities - in Devon and Essex in England and Kirkcudbright in Scotland.
Milk Link will use a rapid testing system called the CellScan Innovate, similar to that used by Biotrace, and developed by Celsis over the last two years. The advantage of a rapid testing system, explained Jenny Parsons, from the group's corporate communications, is that unsafe milk can be detected at an earlier stage and may prevent expensive product recalls.
"With previous systems such as the agar testing system, it may have taken around three to seven days for the test results to come through. By this time products may have been in the distribution chain."
The difference between CellScan Innovate and its competitors, the company claims, is that Celsis' version uses an a more sensitive reagent which provides a more "consistent and reliable result".
Although Celsis declined to say how much dairy companies stood to gain from effective testing of milk - or how much they lost each year from product recalls - it did explain that it had set up a scheme allowing it to work alongside dairy producers in order to more effectively meet their testing requirements.
UHT milk consumption levels across Europe are increasing steadily, and it currently accounts for half of western European milk consumption, some leading industry observers suggest that long life milk may outsell regular milk in the long term. According to a recently published survey carried out by Arla Foods, consumption of UHT milk has increased by over 100 per cent in the last 30 years.
Growing consumer trust in the product, which has minimal microbe activity, is thought to be the main factor driving the growth in consumption. UHT milk is heated at high temperatures for a short period of time, ensuring maximum microbe inactivity while maintaining the nutritional content of pasteurised milk.
The safety of the milk they produce is of great importance to large milk processors such as Milk Link. With more than 70 companies buying milk from the UK market leader - and some 1.4 billion litres of milk processed each year - ensuring the highest quality standards is vital for the success of the company in the long term.