The start of a “new normal” amid the coronavirus pandemic is a daunting prospect for businesses, but three dairy farms in Wales are using new vending machines to offer safer milk sales for customers.
The appeal of self-serve and contactless sales has increased since the health crisis and more customers are now prepared to pay a premium to buy their milk direct from the farm.
As the world changed, Morfa Milk, Daisy Bank Dairy and Fforest Farm Whole Milk took the plunge and invested in the machines that offer a modern twist on farmgate sales.
The farms have been supported by business development project Cywain, which helps enterprises in the Welsh food and drink sector.
Pembrokeshire farmer Randal Williams began selling milk from Parcymorfa Farm in Fishguard this month.
“Our first weekend was great, and we’ve had amazing support from people and really positive comments,” he said.
Happy customers include Fishguard born and bred John Miles, who is national squad physiotherapist for the Welsh Rugby Union.
The non-homogenised milk from the farm’s grass-fed herd has been pasteurised and is sold in branded Morfa Milk bottles.
“Cywain have been brilliant, we’ve had a whole load of business advice – finance, accounting social media, and marketing – from start to finish. We’ve also had branding design support to help our marketing.”
The milk is sold for £1 a litre and the vending machine cost £12,000. The farm’s current bulk milk price is 26-27p/litre.
“There is huge cost involved, in addition to the actual vending machine, such as the pasteurising process,” said Mr Williams. “We will have to wait and see how it takes off, but we had to try something different.
“People and families seem to quite like coming and filling the glass bottles up themselves, to take their milk away,” he added.
Daisy Bank Dairy
Run in partnership by father and son Mike and Glenn Lloyd, milk production at the family’s farm in Montgomeryshire goes back three generations, and the enterprise has been organic since 2017.
Daisy Bank’s vending machines are located at Tuffins convenience store in Welshpool and Costcutter in Caersws.
Each site has two machines – a milk vending machine and a glass bottle dispenser. There are social distancing and cleaning protocols, including the provision of gloves and wipes for customers.
Sales per vending machine of the organic milk are averaging 50-80 litres a day, with 100 litres the goal.
Glenn said: “We were due to launch on what became the second weekend of lockdown, with the original plan to install the vending machines inside the stores.
“But social distancing requirements meant we instead positioned the machines outside and away from the doors.”
Fforest Farm Whole Milk
Customers began visiting Sally Windsor’s milk vending machine at Fforest Farm in Whitland last month, and numbers are steadily rising.
“We’ve had lots of return customers – more than I thought, to be honest, but our milk sales are spreading by word of mouth.”
The pasteurised non-homogenised whole milk is sold in the vending machine located on the farm’s lane.
The milk is sold for £1 a litre and the vending machine cost £16,000, with the outlay spread over seven years. In comparison, the farm’s bulk milk price is currently 25p/litre.
Cywain has helped with branding and financial advice. The plan is to eventually welcome visitors on farm to see how the milk is produced.
“As we develop the business, we’re hoping to share our story with the customers,” said Ms Windsor.
Route to market
Welsh rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths has welcomed the new route to market for Welsh farmers after a difficult period for the industry.
“We know that the dairy sector has been among those hardest hit by the recent pandemic – and while we are keen to support our dairy farmers wherever possible, it’s very encouraging to see that businesses providing milk to consumers will have another method of doing so through these new vending machines.
“This is of particular good news as it will also help Welsh milk producers to market their own, premium brands.”
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