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'Cheesy does it' as United Dairy Farmers turns £4.4m profit

By Margaret Canning

Published 07/10/2010

Cheese, yogurt and ice-cream sales helped Northern Ireland's biggest dairy business to a "solid" financial performance in its annual results.

Dale Farm parent United Dairy Farmers said £4.4m profit before tax and pensions was up £293,000 on the year before. Turnover had remained "almost unchanged" at £331m.

In December last year the co-operative group absorbed the remaining 50% shareholding in United Feeds, one of Northern Ireland's biggest animal feed businesses.

Group chief executive David Dobbin said: "The group delivered a solid financial performance in 2009/10, supported by record sales of Dale Farm consumer and ingredient products and by the benefit derived from taking full ownership of United Feeds.

"The group made continued progress in its long-term strategy of growing added value sales into the consumer products and food ingredient markets.

"Boosted by numerous successes at international cheese shows in 2009, including a gold medal at the World Cheese Awards, there was a 30% increase in cheese sales turnover, with continued strong growth in retail sales of Dromona cheese.

"There were also excellent consumer sales performances in Dromona butters and spreads, Dale Farm fresh milk, cream and ice cream, Spelga yogurts, and in Great Britain from the Rowan Glen and Dale Farm Lakeland businesses."

Consumer sales were up 4.5% to £111.5m while ingredients sales were up 14% to £27.4m. Mr Dobbin said: "Added value sales now account for 81% of total Dale Farm sales helping offset a 30% reduction in sales of commodity dairy products."

He said the group had finished the first phase of a £39m capital investment programme - one of the largest ever by a Northern Ireland food company - after opening a new cheese and whey processing site near Cookstown in March.

The group also extended its Ballymena dairy to include a glass-blowing operation.

Mr Dobbin said global dairy markets had picked up from a period of weakness last year.

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