A DURHAM dairy has seen its turnover almost double to just shy of £12m after it was bought out by UK Dairy Sales (UKDS) in May last year.
The 106-year-old Rock Farm Dairy, at Wheatley Hill, has seen its fortunes transform since it was purchased from the administrators and now the site produces more than 400,000 litres of locally produced milk every week.
Sedgefield’s Labour MP Phil Wilson paid tribute to the success of the family-run dairy in Wheatley Hill and the impact it is having on local job creation during a visit to the site.
He said: “We are all aware that the dairy industry is facing perhaps some of the toughest trading conditions in living memory.
“So it is very pleasing to be able to see such a success story here in the North East and especially within my constituency.
“Not only has Rock Farm been able to secure employment for 55 existing staff but it has also managed to create 12 new jobs for local people and with ambitious plans for future growth this is good news for the Wheatley Hill community.”
UKDS has already invested almost £2m into the dairy in order to build a solid platform for sustainable, long-term growth for the business.
John Gregory, the great grandson of the site’s original farmer Ruth Mary who, together with his brother Keith still manages the dairy, said: “We are fully focused on driving the business forward and we have ambitious plans for growth. Over the next five years we are planning to more than double our turnover.
“We are already investing in new processing and packaging equipment so that we can develop still further our extensive range of milk and dairy products to enable us to better meet the needs of our customers.”
The prospect for expansion of the business at Rock Farm is also good news for the region’s dairy farmers.
UKDS is committed to paying local farmers a fair price for the milk they supply to the dairy and there are now 12 dairy farms in the region supplying their milk to the Wheatley Hill site and this number is growing.
The owner of UKDS, Jon Thornes, said: “I have always been a passionate believer in supporting the local dairy farmer and the importance of supplying local milk to local people. Customers increasingly want to know where their milk comes from and trust the quality of the source. That is why we are determined to develop close working relationships with our dairy farmers so that we can achieve our goal to deliver quality local milk for the enjoyment of local people.”
Rock Farm is the largest supplier of milk in 189ml bottles to schools in the region and also supplies a range of customers across the North, including hospitals, care homes, universities, local stores, hotels and restaurants.