What’s AIMS, the new milk assurance scheme for British dairy businesses?

By Teodora Lyubomirova

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Milk Fresh milk Dairy farming Dairy assurance scheme Sustainability

The new Assured Integrated Milk Supplier (AIMS) scheme sets out to ensure traceability in the milk supply chain for those purchasing milk from non-direct sources. But is it compulsory, and who can join?

AIMS will sit alongside Red Tractor and the Dairy Transport Assurance Scheme (DTAS) and is open to any dairy business buying and trading milk with other dairy businesses in Britain.

Launched and administered by Dairy UK, the scheme’s founding members include Arla Foods UK, First Milk, Glanbia Cheese, Meadow Foods, Lactalis and Muller Milk & Ingredients. The scheme will operate on a pilot basis until January 2024.

Announced at this year’s Dairy-Tech tradeshow, AIMS promises to ‘fill an existing gap’ in the current assurance and industry schemes. “Dairy businesses have a need to trade milk between companies with a number of benefits such as short- and long-term balancing, managing operational scenarios, reducing milk miles, ensuring compliance to regional milk types, reduced environmental footprint and commercial needs. This can be in the form of a direct purchase, swap arrangement or with integrated haulage,” explained a Dairy UK spokesperson.

“Milk traded this way is done so to agreed specifications, with Red Tractor assurance and Dairy Transport Assurance Scheme haulage being a prerequisite as part of this. However, there are other quality control and assurance management points operated within the supply chain by dairies which ensure that the milk supplied is of good quality. For example, testing and payment systems plus, more recently, a number of sustainability requirements.”

The scheme is therefore designed to capture these additional management points and encourage dairies to become ‘assured suppliers’ so that receiving dairies will know that any milk purchased, no matter its origin, meets a comparable standard to their own milk. “This will create an assured pool of milk that means business can trade freely with confidence,” the spokesperson said.

But AIMS won’t be compulsory, DairyReporter understands, nor will it be linked directly to the Red Tractor traceability chain. Yet, Dairy UK told us that Red Tractor had been ‘fully briefed’ on AIMS and the two teams will be working closely on areas such as traceability, ‘where there are mutual benefits and development opportunities for both parties’. “We do intend to invite companies such as Red Tractor to become associated members to cement the communications between the two [organizations],” the Dairy UK spokesperson said.

AIMS will be funded by its members on a tiered approach to reflect differing business sizes. There will be one annual charge to cover the costs of secretariat support, scheme administration, website development and maintenance, and other general overheads, we were told. There will be no joining fee.

“All members will have to undertake an annual audit by an external, independent auditor,” the Dairy UK spokesperson said. “The cost of the annual audit is agreed between the company and the auditor, at a rate negotiated by the committee on behalf of its members. Any company joining the scheme will be categorised as “applied” until an audit has been completed, upon which time they become fully assured, following a successful outcome.”

The scheme will also have a code of practice that participating businesses will have to comply with and be audited against. Its content is segmented into four main categories: Milk Quality, Farm Assurance, Traceability and Sustainability. “The code does not prescribe how a dairy company manages an item, but requires that: they do have a policy, documented procedures, compatible outcomes and evidence that this is working in place within their business,” the spokesperson told us.

During 2023, AIMS will run on a pilot basis during 2023 ahead of a live launch in 2024. “Feedback will be continuous in the first year, between the dairy companies, the auditor and the Management Committee, with quarterly meetings set to share feedback and learnings,” said the spokesperson. “Any updates or refinements to the scheme will be addressed in Q4 of 2023, to set the standard and process in preparation for the live launch in 2024.”

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