First Milk retains regional cheese contract with Asda

First Milk’s 3000 members can breathe a sigh of relief after the dairy co-op announced this week it had retained its cheese contract with Asda.

Under the 20,000t deal, which First Milk inherited when it bought a large chunk of Dairy Crest’s cheese business last year, all Asda’s own-label cheese will come from First Milk’s creameries in Cumbria, west Wales and the Scottish Highlands.

As part of Asda’s drive to highlight the provenance of its produce, the cheeses will feature not only their county of origin but also the name of the creamery – Aspatria, Haverfordwest or Campbeltown – where they are produced.

The contract will not be reviewed for at least 18 months. This should introduce some extra stability into the cheese sector, which is renowned for its cutthroat nature.

Jeff Halliwell, managing director of the First Milk Cheese Company, said: “This was the biggest of our “inherited” contracts, so it is very important to us that it has been renewed.

Mr Halliwell said he wouldn’t rule out a First Milk branded cheese at some point, but the main emphasis would be on adding value by working with retail customers like Asda to develop innovative new own-label products for them.