Dale Farm posts record £10m profit on £481m turnover
Dale Farm has reported a 28% rise in pre-tax profits to £10.1m for 2017
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The UK's largest dairy co-op, which is owned by its farmer shareholders, also recorded a 24% jump in group turnover to £481m in 2017 - a record year.
Pre-tax profits were up from £7.9m a year earlier, while group operating profit had grown from £9.8m to £12.1m.
It's the third year of growth for Dale farm, which last week announced the biggest deal ever with discount supermarket chain Lidl for an Northern Ireland agri-food business.
It's now Lidl's global supplier for cheddar cheese.
Dale Farm is owned by more than 1,300 dairy farmers across the UK.
It has 10 sites across the UK and brands including Dale Farm Milk, Dale Farm Ice Cream, Dromona, Spelga, Fivemiletown, Mullins Ice Cream, Rowan Glen and Loseley.
Group chief executive Nick Whelan said: "Our financial performance is measured by our ability to best support our farmer owners and as such our 2017/18 accounts are hugely positive.
"Our consistent level of growth and profitability is the result of ongoing reinvestment, combined with teamwork and an ambitious strategy that has strengthened partnerships with major customers across the UK, Ireland and beyond." He added: "Dale Farm's focus remains steadfast - to support sustainable farming by paying our members the best possible milk price at all times.
"I am delighted to be able to report that Dale Farm has moved to the top of the 12-month rolling milk price league in NI and, as of this month, is paying the leading milk price on the island of Ireland."
Mr Whelan said that Dale Farm had spent £19m on facilities and operations over the last three years, with a 14.4% group return on capital employed.
He added: "A vital ingredient in our success is the strength of our people, so we invest heavily into developing talent that will help us on our growth trajectory.
"We also continually assess and reinvest into every step of the production process to increase our operating efficiencies and in doing so, have achieved a return on capital well above the industry average.
"This lean model allows us to focus on the sustainability not just of Dale Farm's business, but also the businesses of our growing network of dairy farmers who provide us with world-class milk."
The company is one of four suitors linked to a tie-in with cross-border dairy co-op LacPatrick.