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Dairy Crest takeover: What does the future hold for Saputo Dairy UK?

Following the takeover by Saputo, Alex Black spoke to new president and chief operating officer Tom Atherton about what the future holds for Dairy Crest.


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Dairy Crest to change its name after Saputo takeover

Dairy Crest was set to rebrand following its takeover by Canadian dairy giant Saputo with chief executive Mark Allen also to step down.

 

Mr Allen will step down on July 1 after 28 years with the business.

 

Tom Atherton, who has worked for the firm since 2005, most recently as deputy chief executive, has been appointed president and chief operating officer of Saputo Dairy UK.


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Tom Atherton
Tom Atherton

Mr Atherton paid tribute to the heritage of the name and the business but said after conversations with staff and Dairy Crest Direct it had decided it was the right decision.

 

He said: “If we look about what we talk about externally, we focus on the brands."

 

He said with the name Dairy Crest, people envisioned liquid milk, but the business was now fully focused on cheese, oils and spreads.

 

Brands

 

He highlighted many people may not recognise the name Dairy Crest, but they would recognise Cathedral City.

 

He added: “We put the money where the brands are, the brand are the strength that drives the business.”

 

He said Mr Allen, who had been with the business 28 years, had a relentless focus on quality with big investments, including the current upgrade at its Davidstow creamery.

History of Dairy Crest

  • 1981 Established as milk processing arm of Milk Marketing Board
  • 1983 Launched Clover dairy spread
  • 1995 Bought Cathedral City brand from Mendip Foods
  • 1996 Business is privatised
  • 2000 Acquires dairy and cheese division of Unigate
  • 2002 Acquired St Ivel spreads
  • 2006 Sells most own label cheese business to First Milk
  • 2007 Acquires St Hubert, including Cholegram, Le Fleurier and Omega 3 brands
  • 2013 Sells North West doorstep delivery operations to Creamline Dairies
  • 2014 Announces big slump in profits in November
  • 2015 Completes sale of entire legacy milk business and Frijj brand to Muller in December
  • 2019 Agrees takeover by Saputo

“Along the way there have been big decisions. Moving out of liquid milk was one of them,” he said.

 

Mr Atherton has also been with the business for 14 years, taking on the role of deputy chief executive in January.

 

And he was looking to continue the focus on quality, and looking at opportunities to utilise the links with Saputo to expand outside the UK.

 

Global

 

“We want to take Cathedral City and our brands overseas as there are plenty of opportunities for high quality cheddar,” he said.

 

About 2-3 per cent of its production was currently exported but it was looking at markets where cheddar was the fastest growing element of the cheese category.

 

And the arrangement worked for Dairy Crest as Saputo had no base in the UK, meaning it could carry on, ‘business as usual’.

 

In the UK, he said consumers were changing the way they bought and ate products.

 

Mr Atherton said: “We recently launched more snack products. We will be looking at more innovation in the UK in things like snacking.”

 

He said he was excited about the future and would be continuing to focus on consumers, innovation and quality.

 

“Over the next five years we will be growing our facility," he said.

 

“As we grow we will be looking to take more milk, we would love for our farmers to grow with us.”

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