Developing an appealing brand with a high-quality product has enabled Jess Vaughan to turn milk from a commodity into an added-value product commanding a 10% premium.

Within 18 months of launch, demand for Jess’s Ladies Organic Farm Milk has grown to 80% of daily supply from the family’s 80-cow herd at Hardwicke Farm, Gloucester.

After graduating from Aberystwyth University and working in partnership with her father, Mike on their 89ha (220-acre) organic farm, Jess was aware she would have to consider adding value. “We investigated opportunities that would allow us to make best use of our farm’s resources as well as our proximity to consumers,” she explains.

“We spent more than a year carrying out extensive market research to confirm our targeted customers were interested in a branded, organic milk with provenance. More than anything we used our gut instinct. We had the potential to offer an exceptional unique product by pasteurising and bottling on-site organic, unhomogenised fresh milk, with total traceability and low food miles.

“We invested significant time, understanding and money in branding – its development was supported by MDC (now DairyCo) – trademark registering the brand and images, and installing our own modern processing unit.”

In 2006, she launched Jess’s Ladies Organic Farm Milk to local farm, deli, and coffee shops as well as hotels and restaurants, where the branded product features on menus. Since then, the number of outlets has grown from an initial nine to 70, through a combination of winning new retail outlets, increasing sales from existing customers and establishing a good reputation.

“Strong brand identity, quality and consistency of taste are the key selling points on which we’re building reputation,” she says.

Archers Jersey Ice Cream

John and Sue Archer already had a plan before their herd was culled out to foot-and-mouth in 2001.

“We decided we would restock but, to be more precise, we planned to swap our black-and-whites for Jerseys to provide an opportunity for an added-value enterprise. We were tired of supplying the mild Cheddar and skimmed-milk powder market,” Mrs Archer explains.

Today their 365 pedigree-cow herd at Newmoor Farm, Walworth Gate, Darlington, supplies Archers Jersey Ice Cream sold through their farm ice-cream parlour, which last year attracted 25,000 visitors.

As soon as the new herd was up and running, the couple decided to explore an ice-cream making venture. “We sensed there were opportunities for real dairy ice-cream – the UK is awash with inferior commodity product made from vegetable oils, so we went out to do our own market research visiting farmhouse ice-cream parlours in different parts of the country,” she says.

“After finding support from our bank, we agreed to go ahead and commit a budget towards processing and freezing equipment from RSS Hereford the investment was eligible for a 33% RES grant. We also set about converting a former forge into a parlour and developing a short farm walk to provide visitors with an additional attraction.”

Since launching in 2004, visitors number have doubled year on year, says Sue. “We believe our success is based on providing a high quality product at a reasonable price which fits with what local customers believe to be an interesting and cost effective day out.”

Two months ago, the Archers opened a new retail outlet in nearby Richmond, where they say sales will be driven by tourists. The couple’s future plans are to develop opportunities in the foodservice sector to help achieve a more consistent year round demand.

Adding value is hard work and it’s essential to research the market before starting production, says Sue Archer.

Enterprise

Farmers considering a diversification enterprise can find out more at the event from DairyCo and its series of publications including On Farm Processing – A Beginners Guide, On Farm Small Scale Cheese Making Guide and Yoghurt/Ice Cream/Pasteurised Milk – A Beginners Guide. All these publications will be available to order from the stand on the day.

See also: Dairy Event and Livestock Show 2008