The work is set to increase production, create jobs and help the company reach new markets over the next three years.
Improvements will be made at the Hatston Industrial Estate based facility in Kirkwall, the largest community in the islands. New cutting tables will be installed, as well as a vacuum packer, a touchless-technology operating-system and energy-efficient refrigeration.
The company currently sends its product to the mainland for cutting and packaging. The new equipment will allow the firm to create a new locally-branded line of cheese, and provide some cutting and packaging on the island.
The company is an important contributor to the local economy on the island and a valuable source of employment. It is expected two new jobs will be created as a result of the project and 22 jobs will be retained.
The firm is the island’s sole producer of Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar. In 2011, it was granted special protection by the European Union as it differs from other traditional cheddars due to the unique dry stir technique.
Orkney Cheese is primarily owned by Orkney Milk, a co-operative of 14 dairy farmers. The company turns the milk into cheddar cheese, the bulk of which is sold via Lactalis into French food markets, other export markets and into UK supermarkets. The remainder is sold to several local businesses, which use the cheddar product to add value by smoking and flavoring and selling on under their own brands.
The project has secured up to £370,000 ($509,000) in funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).
Ruth Kirkpatrick from HIE’s Orkney area team, said, “We are really pleased to support Orkney Cheese’s developments after what has been a very challenging year for the business. The company is an important employer in Orkney and is pivotal to the sustainability of the whole dairy sector."
Chair of Orkney Cheese, Richard Herdman, said, “We really appreciate the help and support we’ve received from HIE. It has been invaluable in upgrading the process controls at Orkney Cheese and will secure our future with some improvements in efficiencies and thereby reduce our carbon emissions.
“With the unexpected challenges of the pandemic, it has been a long haul to get to this point but we have other projects in the pipeline in the coming year that will further secure our future. I would like to thank HIE for this crucial help and look forward to working closely.”