A booming farmers’ co-operative has launched a recruitment drive for new members to supply milk after posting record sales of £45 million.
The news was revealed by managing director Alan Wyn Jones at an open day to celebrate the 80th anniversary of South Caernarfon Creameries which employs 130 staff at its base near Pwllheli on the Llŷn Peninsula.
Over the last four years the company has invested £12 million in a state-of-the-art cheese production facility as well as redevelopment of their cheese packing plant.
According to Mr Wyn-Jones, they need more farmers to join the fold because of the demand for their cheeses and butter with record sales for the second year running.
The latest figures showed there was an impressive 36 per cent increase on sales of £45.1 million for the year just ended March 2018.
Mr Wyn Jones predicted the momentum would continue as the co-operative strives to conquer ever more exciting new markets.
He said: “There is ever increasing demand for our products and we continue to innovate in order to add as much value as possible. Only last week we were at a International fancy food fair in New York working to get our Dragon cheese brand in front of the USA audience.
“After 80 years, our ambition to grow and add value is as strong as ever.”
As the co-operative, comprising of 127 farmer owners, looks forward to the next 20 years – and its eventual centenary – it wants to drive up sales even further.
Mr Wyn Jones said: “With that in mind we are keen to recruit more all-year-round milk producing dairy farmers into our ranks.
“A number of potential newcomers were among the hundreds here at the open day touring our premises and seeing for themselves the opportunities South Caernarfon Creameries can offer them.”
The company produces a range of cheese and butter products and produces around 12,500 tonnes of cheese a year.
Among the newest members of staff to be recruited is Jordan Roberts, 23, the great grandson of the co-operative’s founder, the late John Owen Roberts, who in the 1930s had a vision to see Welsh dairy farmers work together to market their own milk.
Following a determined campaign his plan came to fruition in 1938 when the South Caernarfon Creameries co-operative was born. At first it focused on milk distribution, but in 1959 began cheese production.
John Owen Roberts was awarded an MBE for his outstanding contribution to the Welsh dairy industry. After his death the medal was given to South Caernarfon Creameries by Jordan’s grandfather, William Roberts, to keep in posterity.
Jordan, of Pwllheli, who works in the cheese processing area, was honoured to be part of the company his great grandfather founded, and to see it enjoying continued success.
He said: “I’m proud to think something he started for the good of the whole farming community in Wales is still going strong today.”
Mr Wyn Jones said the co-operative had a pioneering history and it is still leading the way in Welsh dairy production today.
He credited its long-term philosophy of working to secure the best possible returns for its farmer members as being at the root of its success.
He said: “We currently pay one of the highest milk prices in Wales and we work hard to innovate and take advantage of new technologies to ensure we produce the highest quality products on their behalf.
“Our aim is to produce fantastic products, unbeatable service to our farmer members and our customers, and to work on delivering new and different products to continually entice consumers.”
South Caernarfon Creameries farm liaison manager Peredur Williams said the co-operative draws its members from a large area stretching from North and Mid Wales.
He said: “We welcome interest from dairy farmers across mid and north Wales in particular to joining our co-operative and be part of a very exciting and positive future.”
At the open day members of the public were able to see the entire process including learning how the milk is turned into cheese, matured and packed ready for distribution its range of customers.
They were given tours of the plant including visiting one long-term cheese storage warehouse where 5,000 tons of cheese is matured at a precise temperature of eight degrees centigrade, before it is graded then moved on for cutting.
Peredur explained: “We produce a range of cheeses at different maturity levels, including our cavern aged cheese which is matured underground at the famous Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog.
Slate Caverns representative Malcolm Chambers was on hand at the open day to give demonstrations of slate splitting and talk to the public about the intriguing history of the caverns and its slate production.
Other highlights included a pop-up shop selling limited edition Welsh Cavern Cheddar and Oinc Oink Cheese Sausages, a hog roast, cookery demonstrations using Dragon cheese and local produce, a refreshments marquee, kids’ corner, milk a cow experience, face-painting, picnic area, tombola, and a duck race with the first prize of a family day at Llechwedd where the Slate Cavern Cheddar is aged.
Carys Davies attended the open day with her sons, Iori Dafydd Davies, 10 and 8 year-old Ceiri Tudor Davies.
Her husband, Malcolm Davies is a member of the co-operative, who produces milk from Nyffryn Farm, in Dinas, near Pwllheli.
She said: “The open day is a great way for the local community to join in the celebrations and be part of an important anniversary and the boys have had a brilliant time.
“It’s been fun, educational and of course we’ve also been lucky enough to taste the best cheeses in Wales”