The Connage Highland Dairy
“UK customers recognise that if you’re exporting, you must have a quality product.”
Jill Clark of Connage Highland Dairy reveals the secrets of its success, from cows in clover to Clava Brie on the golf courses of America.
The original dairy farm began over 70 years ago by Jill’s father-in-law, and was taken over by his sons, who made the switch to organic farming. The current cheese making business began in 2006. Jill and husband Calum run the dairy and The Cheese Pantry, while Calum’s brother Cameron and his wife look after the farm. As much as possible is done on the farm, including growing all the feed for the cows. The high clover diet is rich in Omega 3, giving the milk its beautifully creamy finish – perfect for cheese making!
What impact has exporting had on the business?
Exporting has become a serious undertaking over the last three or four years for Connage Highland Dairy.
“When you see your cheese being served in other countries – that’s such a buzz,” Jill says.
“While exporting doesn’t account for a huge percentage of the business, its influence has been a positive one, giving us the confidence in our product to move forward into other business ventures.”
How has HIE supported your business?
Jill praises the quality of information the business has received from HIE and SDI.
“Both organisations are just a phone call away with good, solid advice to facilitate informed decisions. This has been especially vital to the export side, when businesses need to work out which countries to approach, and where their product could fit.
“We’ve also benefited from a wealth of consultancy expertise, which has been of enormous practical help.”
Any stumbling blocks?
“Logistics can be a challenge, because of geography and packaging. It’s essential the labelling is correct, meeting compliance and regulatory stipulations wherever you are selling your product. Apart from that, there are the usual worries regarding costs and payments.
“It can keep you awake at night,” Jill admits. “We are brave, because it can be daunting. But it’s been a success, and that’s what we love."
What advice would you give other companies who are thinking of exporting?
“Go for it. If you work hard enough, it will be a success. When we started, we never thought our cheese would be served at the Masters golf tournament in the US – it’s exciting!”