Food Man Talks

First Milk invests £5m to boost dairy factories' performance

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dairy, Technology & Automation, factory design & Maintenance, Finance

First Milk is investing £5m this financial year to boost capacity and meet environmental goals, chief executive Shelagh Hancock and chief financial officer Greg Jardine reveal in this exclusive Food Man Talks video podcast.

Commenting following First Milk's latest annual results, Hancock said the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic had not hampered the dairy cooperative’s investment plans. “We have got significant investment plans happening this year at our Lake District Creamery and at Haverfordwest ​[Creamery in Wales] and they are really important for us, because we have seen demand continue to grow.

“Our investment is multi-purpose, partly around capacity and continuing to grow with our customers and very much around our efficiency and sustainability.”

Jardine said: “We’re going to continue to invest at the same level as we did last year. We spent just over £5m and the investment this year that’s planned is going to spend £5m again, moving from spend in Haverfordwest now into the Lake District.”

Emissions reduction

In its results statement for the year to 31 March, First Milk reported an 11% year-on-year reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and Hancock and Jardine outlined some of the investment in this area. “In terms of emissions reduction, it’s really about efficiency and energy efficiency,” ​said Hancock. “Much of our programmes would be around introducing things like combined heat and power to reduce energy consumption.​ We have a new investment this year going down into Haverfordwest, which will again continue along those lines and we continue to make improvements.”

Jardine added: “A lot of those reductions are because we are putting in new kit … At Haverford West last year we put in a new cheese tower and we started investment towards a new combined heat and power plant, which we’ll finish this year. At the Lake District​ we already have a combined heat and power plant, but some of the investment in terms of new duplex pasteurisers are again more energy efficient and that will help us improve against those targets.”

First Milk is aiming for a 65% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 from a 2008 base, helped by a 40% relative reduction in energy use and a 30% relative reduction in water use.

Hancock said the dairy cooperative had achieved considerable progress across a range of green targets over the past ten years, reflecting the Dairy Roadmap, which the dairy industry had been committed to for 12 years.

First4Milk Pledge

First Milk officially launched its First4Milk Pledge in March, encouraging its members to commit to eco-friendly improvements across three main areas: people, animals and the earth, building on the First4Milk programme it launched last year.

Not all the dairy cooperative’s farmer members had signed up to the Pledge by the end of June, which had been the aim. However, as of 16 July, 80% of its members had done so, Hancock said.

In its latest financial report, published on 15 July, First Milk reported operating profit up 4% to £7.5m on sales up 4% to £282.8m. Listen to the rest of this podcast for comment on the results, COVID-19's effect on First Milk's national and international business and Hancock's take on the Government's consultation on unfair practices in the dairy industry​, launched on 24 June​. The consultation closes on the 15 September.

Related topics: Dairy, COVID-19, Environment

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