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280. First Milk – the UK’s dairy cooperative owned by British farmers

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Coop Name: First Milk N° of Employees: 700
City: Paisley N° of Members: 2000
Country: United Kingdom Year of formation: 2004
Website: http://www.firstmilk.co.uk/default.html Twitter: Link
About this coop:

First Milk is the UK’s only British Dairy Farmers cooperative and major food and ingredients production business. The company is focused on growing and diversifying its business to drive returns back to its farmer members. Its members are based across the UK with a high concentration of members particularly in Scotland, NW England and Wales. Its customer base spans the retail, foodservice, b2b and sports nutrition markets both in the UK and internationally. The company made profits of £13.3million for the 2011/12 financial year and the turnover was £579million – an increase of 1% on the 2010/11 financial year.

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What does co-operation mean to First Milk? “Through our members, partners and joint ventures, co-operation means working with like-minded organizations who share our ambitions, passion and sustainability beliefs.”

At the core of everything First Milk does, is the drive to make returns back to its farmer members, and drive a sustainable future for them and the dairy industry. The company is driven and led by its five strategic drivers which are:
• Driving returns for its farmer members
• Growing its brands
• Diversifying its product and customer base
• Lowering its cost to serve
• Seeking value in partnerships.

By following these drivers, First Milk’s business has strengthened significantly over the last few years particularly through their expansion into more markets and added value opportunities. It has resulted in an increasingly robust business that has driven back three returns and a dividend payment to its members, over the last couple of years.

As a major food production business – and the UK’s cheddar specialist – First Milk makes a number of dairy products and ingredients including a range of soft cheeses, milk powders, whey protein, and leading cheddars including its branded cheddars – Mull of Kintyre, Scottish Pride, Pembrokeshire, and Lake District Cheddar. Lake District Cheddar in particular is one of the cheese industries biggest success stories of recent years, as in the few years since launch, the cheese is now the UK’s number three cheddar, with a packet of the cheddar being sold somewhere in the UK, every 1.5 seconds.

The path for First Milk will continue to see the company take a different path from other UK dairy businesses as it strives to further diversify. Its acquisition of CNP Professional – a leading sports nutrition company, purchased by First Milk in May 2012, is a key example of the steps the company is making to secure a robust, sustainable and profitable future for its members.

This story is brought to you by SAOS – Scotland’s agricultural co-op development and member organisation. www.saos.coop

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