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Highland dairy sets sights on new international markets

28 September 2012

A family of Highland cheesemakers handcrafting multi award winning cheeses from home produced organic milk is investing in an upgrade of its facilities.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is supporting Connage Highland Dairy with their plans to expand their business which will lead to an increase in production, reduced carbon emissions and potential new export markets.

The long established family business had been seeking to diversify in order to add value to the organic milk it was already producing and started making cheese in late 2005. They now process 40 tonnes of cheese annually from their organic dairy herd of 150 cows made up of Holsteins, Friesians, Jerseys and Norwegian Reds.

The dairy is managed by Callum and Jill Clark at the family farm which is situated at Milton of Connage at Ardersier where it produces and sells a range of premium quality, hand-made, organic, soft and hard cheeses which include Clava brie, Crowdie,Cromal, smoked Dunlop, Gouda,Yoghurt and Connage Dunlop which have been recognised with awards including Best Traditional British Cheese and Best Scottish Cheese in 2010. Their Bradan is Gruth product was shortlisted in the 2012 Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Awards.

British Cheese Week is being celebrated this week (22-30 September) and in addition, cheese from Connage Highland Dairy will be gracing dinner plates at the Ryder Cup golfing event which starts this weekend.

The upgrade of its production facilities will help the company with their aspirations to grow and increase its customer base while focusing on new export market areas.

Caroline Maclellan, Development Manager at HIE, said: "We have worked with Connage Highland Dairy for a number of years, including awarding £84,000 towards construction and equipment for the original cheese factory in 2006, and we have also provided support in recruiting a graduate placement in 2010.

"The larger site will allow for more efficient operations as there will be more space and the business will also be able to maximise resource efficiency and minimise waste. As production capacity increases, it would be possible to retain more efficient loads of milk at the farm instead of being transferred to the central belt where it's bottled, which will reduce carbon emissions."

Jill Clark from Connage Highland Dairy, said: "Our range of organic and vegetarian cheeses is sold at our retail outlet on site and throughout the UK and we are now looking to further expand our export market. With support from HIE we can increase our production capacity to meet demand from customers, refresh our branding, and focus on new market areas which will in turn allow us to build on additional potential export markets."

Connage Highland Dairy has achieved considerable success since it was set up as a farm diversification, including securing a two year deal with Harrods following attendance at a meet-the-buyer event in 2009 organised by Scotland Food and Drink.

The business is also being awarded grant support from the Scottish Government under the Food Processing, Marketing and Cooperation (FPMC) scheme.

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