Funding boost for Orkney cheesemaker

Published: 24/08/2021

A project to upgrade a cheese production facility in Orkney has secured up to £370,000 investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

John Miller, General Manager of Orkney Cheese

Orkney Cheese Company Limited is investing in a £925,000 refurbishment project, which is set to increase production, create jobs and help the company reach new markets over the next three years.

Significant improvements will be made at the Hatston Industrial Estate based facility in Kirkwall. New cutting tables will be installed as well as a vacuum packer, a touchless technology operating system and energy efficient refrigeration.

The company currently sends the product to the mainland for cutting and packaging. The new equipment will allow the firm to create a new locally branded line of cheese, providing some cutting and packaging on the island.  

The company is an important contributor to the local economy on the island and a valuable source of employment. It is expected that two new jobs will be created as a result of this project and 22 jobs will be retained.

The firm is the island’s sole producer of Orkney Scottish Island Cheddar and the product has won numerous awards for taste and quality since its launch. In 2011 it was granted special protection by the European Union as it differs from other traditional cheddars due to the unique dry stir technique.

Orkney Cheese is primarily owned by Orkney Milk, which is a co-operative of 14 dairy farmers. The company turns the milk into high quality cheddar cheese, the bulk of which is sold via Lactalis into French food markets, other export markets and into UK supermarkets. The remainder is sold to several local businesses, which use the cheddar product to add value by smoking and flavouring and selling on under their own brands.

Ruth Kirkpatrick from HIE’s Orkney area team, said: “We are really pleased to support Orkney Cheese’s developments after what has been a very challenging year for the business. The company is an important employer in Orkney and is pivotal to the sustainability of the whole dairy sector. "

Chair or Orkney Cheese, Richard Herdman, said: “We really appreciate the help and support we’ve received from HIE. It has been invaluable in upgrading the process controls at Orkney Cheese and will secure our future with some improvements in efficiencies and thereby reduce our carbon emissions.

“With the unexpected challenges of the pandemic, it has been a long haul to get to this point but we have other projects in the pipeline in the coming year that will further secure our future. I would like to thank HIE for this crucial help and look forward to working closely.”