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Arla’s hat trick

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

L-R: Food Manufacture editor Bethan Grylls with Fran Ball on stage at the 2024 Food Manufacture Excellence Awards
L-R: Food Manufacture editor Bethan Grylls with Fran Ball on stage at the 2024 Food Manufacture Excellence Awards

Related tags Business Leadership Sustainability

Fran Ball, VP of production at Arla, reflects on what it means to have won at this year’s Food Manufacture Excellence Awards and the processes and people that helped secure the dairy company’s three trophies.

Q. What made you want to enter the FMEAs?

A: ​Year on year the FMEA’s remain on our radar, but it wasn’t until 2024’s entry form landed in my inbox, that I thought ‘Yes! Let’s enter and celebrate Arla Foods’ fantastic year’.

Across the board, we continue to deliver exceptional results and have a great story to tell the industry and beyond. There were several awards we could have entered but we selected the three that best resonated and felt the most pertinent to our story around ‘People, Planet and Performance’.

Q: You won three awards this year, how are you feeling – and what does winning each of these mean to you?

A: ​It’s still a pinch me moment for everyone here at Arla that we won all three! At first emotions were high and we felt both overwhelmed and excited that we had won, but then an immense sense of pride took over.

It’s great to be recognised by our partners, customers and consumers in the food industry for the great work we continue to deliver. But none of this could have been possible without our dedicated colleagues and hardworking farmer owners who work tirelessly every day to deliver great tasting and nutritional dairy products for everyone to enjoy.

Q: One of these prizes was employer of the year – tell me more about the systems you put in place to create a positive workplace culture?

A: ​As a cooperative, our employee-first culture is something we pride ourselves on. We strive for fostering a culture that is both performance driven and collaborative, where everyone can turn up and bring their whole selves to work.

Most recently our Arla Culture model was relaunched in 2023 to really ensure all our colleagues understood the foundations of the Arla culture. The main elements of our ‘We Are All Arla’ model focuses on six qualities: ‘Lead, Sense, Create, Envision, Engage and Deliver’.

These qualities describe how we work not only with our heads, but with our hearts to make incredible things happen at Arla. We encourage everyone to be their authentic selves, helping us on our journey to create a truly reflective workplace, celebrating the diverse backgrounds of each and every one of us.

For me personally, another key element of our culture is the fact that we are part of a cooperative. Everything we do is for our farmer owners.

Additionally, as a company that prides itself on delivering nutritious dairy products, we also have a commitment to the health and wellbeing of our colleagues. This has seen employee-led initiatives under the ‘by colleagues for colleagues’ framework come to play, including proactive health kiosks and ‘Arlympics’. This is an exciting opportunity that empowers the team to develop and deliver initiatives close to their hearts.

Q: You also won the new ESG award – we’re seeing a great deal of regulation come into play around ESG. How are you tackling those and ensuring you have strong E, S and G systems in place?

A: ​At Arla, we are proud to have ambitious, industry-leading standards across ESG, which are at the heart of our commitment to always strive to do better. This means we have strong ESG systems in place to ensure we’re acting with the upmost responsibility and compliance.

We have publicly set SBTi goals around net zero and other key ESG metrics, and key to reaching these is gathering and understanding reliable data on our environmental impact. Every year our farmer owners submit ‘Climate Check’ reports, one of the biggest datasets of its kind, mapping emissions and other sustainability measures and aligning them to initiatives and on-farm practices. This vital information enables us to track our progress and identify the areas where we can make the biggest gains and have the greatest positive impact.

Q: To complete your hat trick, Arla was awarded the coveted Food Manufacturer Company of the Year grand prize. The judges referenced the business’ sustained growth, innovation and commitments to safety, sustainability and quality – what would you say has been the key ingredient in building such a strong business?

A: ​Arla Foods is the UK’s largest dairy cooperative, and a substantial manufacturing company, but we have kept a laser focus on our three key principles of ‘People, Planet and Performance’. We use this ‘3Ps model’ to communicate our vision and journey through all levels of the organisation. 

By keeping focus on engagement of our colleagues and farmers, we have been able to ensure we address the important external matters right across the value chain.

Q: What is next for Arla – what will you be focusing on in the next few years?

A: ​There are already some exceptionally exciting things in the pipeline that we can’t wait to share but really our north star over the next few years is to bring to life our mission of ‘adding value to our farmers milk’ and our vision of ‘creating the future of dairy’.

Through unmatched innovation, product development, digital and data developments to drive efficiencies in our supply chains, and driving forward our sustainability targets, we will continue to make these goals a reality.

Focusing on sustainability specifically from a 2015 baseline, some of our ambitious goals are to reduce scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by 63% by 2030, reach 100% recyclable packaging on Arla’s own brands, and achieve carbon net zero across all scopes by 2050.

Not forgetting our dedicated colleagues and farmer owners who are really at the heart of the business, we will continue our journey around diversity and inclusion. Key ambitions include increasing the number of women in our supply chain and to help equip and upskill all our colleagues for the future.

Q: For those who are considering entering the awards for 2025 – what would be your biggest piece of advice?

A: ​Don’t stop and think, just go for it. We all have an interesting story to tell, so don’t be afraid to tell it. I personally found the process of pulling together everything that we had achieved and worked on across the year really rewarding and energising. It felt great to take a step away from the busy every day and reflect on some of the outstanding work we’ve achieved across the business. There’s really no better feeling than sharing an impressive and pride-inducing entry, whether you win or not!

In other news, Arla has invested more than £179m in its Devonshire creamery.

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