Major dairy processor declares interest in LacPatrick venture

Northern Ireland’s largest farmer-owned milk processor has declared an interest in a potential venture with LacPatrick, AgriLand can reveal.

A statement issued on behalf of Dale Farm Group chief executive Nick Whelan – in relation to the recent developments at LacPatrick Dairies – said the firm was “interested” in a potential joint venture.

Fitting investments

Yesterday, the board of LacPatrick Dairies announced it was considering a merger to consolidate the dairy industry. The move is understood to be driven by Brexit concerns.

Whelan said: “As the largest farmer-owned dairy cooperative in Northern Ireland, and indeed the UK, Dale Farm has been made aware of the situation at LacPatrick and we have an interest in these developments.”

The companies could be a good fit, as Dale Farm’s business model presents opportunities for growth – particularly in relation to Brexit – given its strength in the UK market and level of investment in innovation.

In 2014, Dale Farm opened its £39 million (€44.7 million) factory in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone. The investment included a new whey protein nanofiltration plant and the expansion of the company’s existing cheddar cheese facility.

Similarly, LacPatrick has only recently opened its new €33 million, 30,000ft² dairy technology centre in Artigarvan, Co. Tyrone.

It’s understood that LacPatrick’s milk pool sits at around 600 million litres, with around 700 suppliers based in Northern Ireland.

Dale Farm

Formerly known as United Dairy Farmers, Dale Farm is owned by over 1,300 dairy farmers across the UK.

Its last accounts made public – for the year ending in March 2017 – saw group operating profit rise by 9% to £9.8 million (€11.3 million).

Over the same period, pre-tax profit also increased by 16% – from £6.8 million (€7.8 million) to £7.9 million (€9.1 million) – and overall group turnover grew by 5.1% to £389 million (€447.6 million).

A spokeswoman for the firm said Dale Farm is set to report “strong financial results” for 2017. It’ll be the third year running that the co-op will have had a strong performance.

Dale Farm has invested over £60 million (€69 million) in the last five years in developing the business.

With its headquarters in Belfast, Dale Farm has 10 sites across the UK and a long-standing heritage in the dairy industry.

Dale Farm owns the award-winning dairy brands: Dale Farm Milk; Dale Farm Ice Cream; Dromona; Spelga; Fivemiletown; Mullins Ice Cream; Rowan Glen; and Loseley.

Its broad dairy portfolio spans milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, sports nutrition drinks, cultured products and desserts.