North-east cheese manufacturer trebles capacity with rural business grant

A northern cheese manufacturer has trebled its production capacity and created five new jobs thanks to a programme designed to accelerate rural business growth in the north-east.

Northumberland Cheese Company has already recruited two new full-time members of staff and plans to recruit two more alongside an apprenticeship position.

As part of the investment, the Blagdon-based company purchased new equipment to speed up its pasteurisation process, allowing higher volumes of cheese to be produced.

As a result, the firm will be able to meet increased demand for its current product range as well as expand into foodservice markets, boosting sales and profits.

Rural Business Growth Fund

The expansion was made possible by the award of a grant of £90,520 from the North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN) Rural Business Growth Fund (RBGF), which enabled the company to leverage private investment.

The grant has been used to purchase and install new machinery that has seen Northumberland Cheese Company double its economic output since October.

This included a 2,000L vat with supporting tanks and pipework, an upgrade to the electrical supply to enable the firm to meet future energy requirements and improvements to its waste system.

Farmhouse style production

Based in a converted granary building housing a dairy, offices, despatch and cheese cafe Northumberland Cheese Company, a subsidiary of Bradbury & Son (Buxton) Limited, has been involved in farmhouse cheese production since 1984.

The firm’s cheeses are produced from a range of different milks, including cow’s milk, Jersey cow milk, goat’s milk and sheep’s milk.

Managing director Jackie Riley said: “The grant funding has meant that we were able to bring forward our plans to replace and upgrade our production equipment, rather than being limited to what we could produce.

“We finished installation in mid-October and it is having a big impact on our operations already.

“In the past, we would have to start the three-and-a-half-hour pasteurisation process at 6:30am in order to meet our production targets.

“The new, larger vat gives us 30% more production within a single batch.

The new equipment will enable us to comfortably pasteurise as much as 6,000L/day compared to the 2,100L we were previously able to process. It has given us significant headroom for continued growth.

“The funding we received through the Rural Growth Network as been crucial in allowing us to realise our ambitions for the site to enable us to increase our turnover and profit margins. The team provided us with the advice and support we needed to make a successful application and have supported us all the way through the project.”

Rural Growth Network manager Katy McIntosh, at Advance Northumberland, added: “The Rural Growth Network was designed to help SMEs in our region to realise their potential, creating jobs for people in Northumberland, Co. Durham and Gateshead.”

Northumberland Cheese has a commitment to staying as local as possible in everything they do – including the milk that they use.

“This investment will enable them to dramatically increase sales and profits, which has a beneficial knock-on effect to regional suppliers and their staff, who own a 15% share in the business, including the five who will be employed as a direct result of this investment.”

Focusing on rural communities in Northumberland, County Durham and Gateshead the North East Rural Growth Network is stimulating business growth and job creation through the application of specific capital grant funding and expertise.