A farmer-owned dairy co-operative has scooped a top honour after achieving record-breaking sales of more than £70 million.
Gwynedd-based South Caernarfon Creameries (SCC) was crowned Large Business of the Year in North Wales at the prestigious Daily Post Business Awards in the august surroundings of the Prichard Jones Hall at Bangor University.
Judges were impressed after hearing that the 17 per cent increase in turnover was accompanied by a rise in profits to £4.1 million, up by 20 per cent on the previous year.
At the same time the creamery – Wales’s oldest dairy co-op – has won a remarkable haul of 70 cheese and butter making awards this year, including a hat-trick of gold global prizes at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards.
The organisation employs 165 staff, has 154 dairy farmer members and customers include most of the best known supermarket chains as well as independent shops and food service companies.
But SCC says it’s not going to be resting on its laurels and is ploughing £21.5 million into a five-year growth plan, Project Dragon, that’s being supported with £5 million in funding from the Welsh Government’s Food Investment Scheme.
The plan includes new facilities for milk reception, additional cheese making capacity and new packing lines as well as continuing to improve environmental and energy performance.
The aim is to increase annual production from 17,000 to 23,000 tonnes of cheese at its Chwilog dairy, near Pwllheli, by 2024/25, with sales forecasted to reach £114 million.
Speaking after picking up the award, Kirstie Jones, marketing manager at SCC, said: “It is really fantastic for us, it shows our growth has been good and is positive for us going forward.
“For that to be recognised is really good for us as a business to help secure more cheese sales and it all helps with building our profile in domestic and international markets.”
Equally delighted was farmer director Gareth Jenkins who said: “It has not been easy over Covid but has been a team effort with all the farmer owners – 154 of us.
“We supply the quality milk to the factory and we have excellent staff and management there. Congratulations to all the team.”
According to managing director Alan Wyn Jones, being embedded in rural Wales is important to the business, as is the Welsh culture and economy.
He added: ““Our strategic objective over the next few years is to achieve a five per cent operating profit, which is above average in the sector.
“We pride ourselves on producing Welsh cheese of exceptional quality and we have all of the required national accreditations in place to exceed standards and provide peace of mind for our customers, thanks to an AA rating from the British Retail Consortium and Red Tractor Farm Assurance.
“Once the milk is collected all the cheese is produced and packed on site, giving us complete control over the process.
“We’re proud of our Welsh roots, so much so that we have a policy to only process Welsh milk and use the Welsh language on our packaging.
“The creamery’s flagship Dragon brand now makes up 10 per cent of the business and we have plans to increase this over the coming years.
“As part of our growth strategy, we are collaborating with other Welsh brands including Halen Môn, Penderyn whisky, Tregroes Waffles and Jones o Gymru.
“We have also recently renewed a partnership with the legendary Scarlets rugby club in Llanelli to help build up brand recognition in South Wales.
“Overall, the business is performing strongly and there is huge potential for future growth which in turn will help boost the rural economy of Wales.”