A Scottish dairy farmer who started award-winning drinking yogurt brand Sandyknowe is hoping to break into new markets following a deal with a local wholesaler.
Alistair Stewart runs a 180-cow dairy herd near Kelso in the Borders in partnership with his father and uncle and hit upon the drinking yogurt idea when milk prices slumped to 18p/litre.
And although he puts just 200 litres of milk a week into his Sandyknowe product – less than 1% of his milk output – he believes it has the potential to make a big contribution to the bottom line.
However, at present the business is only just breaking even.
Once a week Mr Stewart has to drive his milk 100 miles west to Ayr, where it is processed and bottled by Scottish Agricultural College technicians.
“It’s bottled at the SAC to save money, but it’s also labelled by hand, which is very labour intensive.”
The yogurt is sold in three fruit flavours at a few dozen farm shops, farmers’ markets, Dobbies garden centres and even Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh, where it retails for £1.50 a bottle.
But a new tie-up with Glasgow-based wholesaler Lomond Foods should see sales and distribution grow, Mr Stewart says.
“Most people seem to like the product – the difficulty is not getting it onto the shelf, but getting people to pick it up and buy it.”
He hopes that awards for innovation from NFU Scotland and the Milk Development Council will bring him some much needed publicity.
And if orders pick up he plans to buy some second-hand plant to make and bottle the yogurt himself, slashing labour and transport costs.
“We’re not getting anything for our milk.
Prices are so low because we’re producing a commodity, but this way we have a chance.”