Sales at dairy giant Dale Farm have reached a record high of £293m as it milks its successful consumer products and ingredient lines, the company said today.
Parent group United Dairy Farmers Co-op said sales of products like Spelga yoghurt and Dromona cheese had grown 15% over the year to £168m.
But ingredients like cheese by-product whey protein, which has uses like body-building powders and health drinks, were the breakout success of the year, up over 80% to nearly £100m.
Total Dale Farm export sales grew to £102m, helped by growing demand in Russia and China.
However, group chief executive David Dobbin said the strong sterling was now slowing growth of the mainly export ingredients business – though he said it still hoped for steady sales in consumer products this year and into 2015.
Growth in consumer products was abetted by its recent acquisition of Co Tyrone co-op Fivemiletown's portfolio of cheeses and last year's purchase of ice-cream maker Mullin's, based in Kilrea, Co Londonderry. Both deals were for an undisclosed sum.
Mr Dobbin said: "We saw solid results across all our businesses, with cheddar and butter consumer products both delivering strong growth and increased share in the Great Britain market and our exports of cheese, whey proteins and specialised powder ingredients growing strongly.
"Ice-cream sales benefited from better weather and the purchase of the Mullin's ice-cream business.
"We launched a number of new products including Spelga Greek and Fat Free yogurts and a new Dale Farm custard range, all of which showed encouraging growth."
Dale Farm also acquired Ash Manor Cheese Company in Wrexham, north Wales.
The overall United Dairy Farmers Group saw profit-before-tax increase by nearly one-third to £6.1m. Turnover was up £25m to £443m due to Dale Farm's growth and a 10% increase in turnover at feed business United Feeds to £52.7m.
The company said it had also paid the highest-ever prices for mills to members of its co-op at 32.9p per litre – up 7p per litre on the year before. Mr Dobbin said the company's growth strategy of investing heavily in its plants, including a multi-million pound spend on its cheese processing in Dunmanbridge in Cookstown, was paying off.
The company uses a method called nano filtration whey processing in Dunmanbridge, in which the whey protein is separated and dried after cheese-making, to form a a fluffy powder.
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