Belfast Telegraph

£10m milk plant will help Dale Farm conquer world

By Lesley Houston

A new state-of-the-art facility at Northern Ireland's biggest milk processor is set to catapult an ever-expanding company on to even greater heights.

Dale Farm has just unveiled its £10m milk and cream plant in Co Antrim which makes it one of the most modern dairies in the British Isles, giving it an edge over international competitors in lucrative markets.

The new facility at Pennyburn in Ballymena is the first part of an overall £39m investment in Dale Farm's three local production facilities, announced in 2010.

It includes new, high speed milk and cream filling lines, a new inplant plastic bottle blow moulding facility operated by Nampak Plastics Europe Ltd and a new chilled distribution centre.

David Dobbin, Dale Farm's group chief executive, said the development not only creates more than 80 jobs but provides a springboard to follow the significant growth and expansion experienced by the company over the past few years.

The remaining £29m investment is set to follow in 2013 when production will double at both its cheese and whey products plant at Dunmanbridge plant near Cookstown and at its Dromona butter and spreads facility at Cullybackey.

The developments have played their parts in reinvigorating the local construction industry.

"As well as helping to improve the returns to local dairy farmers we have already created over 60 new jobs in Dale Farm and a further 26 jobs in Nampak's inplant bottle blowing operation," said Mr Dobbin.

The new Nampak Plastics Europe operation at Pennybridge introduces new processing technology to Northern Ireland, which will allow bottles to be filled with milk within one minute of manufacture.

"Our investment programme will enable us to develop our sales in more added value dairy products in both domestic and export markets," added Mr Dobbin.

Chief among those export markets, he explained, was the likes of China where growing affluence has seen a recent shift towards milk products than previous generations.

With a climate better suited to other staples of its national diet, Dale Farm has been fulfilling the Far Eastern country's growing demand for whey protein powder products, which have risen four fold in recent times.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the new facility, which becomes the company's chilled distribution hub for Northern Ireland and the Republic, "will significantly strengthen Dale Farm's capacity and capability to compete in export markets".

"It provides a cost-competitive, high-hygiene operation that will support the company's growth in sales," she said.

"The inplant bottle blowing partnership with Nampak, which will increase the recycled content of the packaging and reduce the company's carbon footprint, will also deliver major efficiency gains."