WESTBURY SUPERDAIRY is in the middle of a £600,000 face-lift designed to boost efficiency and help turn the company’s fortunes around.
Ben Gill, part-time chairman of the Wilts-based processor and a former president of the NFU, insists there is a future for producing dairy commodities in the UK.
“Efficiency is the name of the game,” he says, proudly recounting how, in terms of energy usage, Westbury is almost 45% more efficient than the industry benchmark.
And 98% of its output is classed as product right first time. “Fonterra’s new plant in New Mexico is just achieving 90%.”
Though the location is not ideal, Sir Ben gives short shrift to the suggestion that Westbury should just come online for a few months of the year when milk output is at a peak.
The market also needs balancing on a weekly and monthly basis as consumer demand fluctuates, he says.
He also dismisses Westbury’s label as an intervention supplier, claiming nothing has been sold into intervention since he came to the firm 15 months ago.
Instead, he points to the contracts Westbury is winning across the globe. He argues blue-chip food and drink companies need the quality and traceability offered by plants like Westbury.
However, the ownership structure of Westbury and its marketing business, Quality Dairy Ingredients, seems to concern Sir Ben.
Milk Link controls 20% of the dairy, while First Milk and Dairy Farmers of Britain share the balance, making a value-adding venture into branded products or contract processing complicated.
The milk price paid to the business’s 200 direct suppliers, who provide about 45% of Westbury’s milk, is near the bottom of the league table.
But dairy farmers are actually asking to join, claims Sir Ben, who says the tables can be misleading. “We have no seasonality.”