Milk Link, the leading British dairy farmer owned co-operative and largest cheese manufacturer, has officially opened its new Innovation Centre located at the multi award-winning Taw Valley Creamery in Devon.
James Paice MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, opened the Centre. This dedicated facility is the central focus for Milk Link’s new product and packaging development activity and its opening was accompanied by the launch of three new products.
Firstly Tickler…Cheddar That Spreads, a brand extension of the popular Tickler extra-mature cheddar. Developed at the Innovation Centre, it is set to reinvigorate a category that has been dominated by smooth products.
Because of thesmall scale manufacturing capabilities at the Innovation Centre, Milk Link is currently undertaking a retail trial of Tickler…Cheddar That Spreads and early indications suggest that the product is likely to be launched nationally later this year.
To meet demand for lighter cheese products and in line with consumer trends towards health and wellbeing, the Innovation Centre has led the research and development of a lighter cheese that has 30% less fat than standard cheddar but 100% of the taste. The new cheese in a medium strength will be launched nationally in November 2009, followed by the mature variety in February 2010.
The Innovation Centre has also delivered a new addition to Milk Link’s Moo ESL flavoured milk range. Chocolate Creaminess is a creamy and smooth tasting chocolate flavoured milk which uses only natural ingredients and one% fat milk.
Other developments which have already been introduced include a range of extended shelf life flavoured milks for Tesco. Whilst the Centre is also enabling Milk Link to increase its productivity and efficiency levels by implementing new production processes at its Creameries which, amongst other benefits, are improving cheese yields.
Neil Kennedy, Milk Link’s Chief Executive commented: “Milk Link is committed to producing high quality, value added products which meet the needs of both our customers and shoppers. In partnership with our customers, this new Innovation Centre is enabling us to research, develop and perfect products in a timely, cost-effective and risk-averse way before launching nationally.
Commenting on the importance of innovation in the British dairy industry James Paice MP, Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs said: “The past year has been tough for the dairy industry with challenging trading conditions and confidence at a low ebb.
“It is my belief that investing in innovation is the key to securing a sustainable future for the British dairy industry and I am delighted that Milk Link is doing just that with the launch of this new Centre”.
Matt Richards, Milk Link’s Head of Innovation commented: “The Innovation Centre is a leading dairy facility which will enable us to work with all our key retail customers to trial new products and packaging developments, such as Tickler…Cheddar That Spreads. Watch this space as there are more significant innovations in the pipeline which will launch soon. It really is an exciting time at Milk Link”.
The Innovation Centre is also developing new processing techniques and product formulations to help deliver increased quality, taste and efficiencies. A particular focus is the reuse and enhancement of dairy by-products to ensure maximum value is gained from Members milk.
Seven full-time roles have been created as a result of the new Centre across a range of disciplines.
Milk Link produces a range of branded cheeses and butters, including Tickler fabulous extra-mature cheddar; The Red One really remarkable Red Leicester; Lockerbie Creamery Cheddar, unique products with a special kick and “a wee bit of bite”; Lockerbie Creamery butter; the Cadog range of bilingually-branded cheeses; and Moo Milk long life milk range which includes whole, semi-skimmed, one %, skimmed and different flavours.
The company manufactures over 20 varieties of cheddars, Blue Stilton’s and British regional cheeses for the retail, food service and ingredients sectors and employs over 1,000 staff across five cheese and dairy processing facilities and its consumer packing facility at Oswestry, Shropshire.