Infant formula is big business and it is central to the success of Kendal Nutricare, a milk powder company with a global mindset.
Ben Briggs spoke to chief executive Ross McMahon and found a man passionate about promoting dairy’s benefits.
Dairying needs to be on the front foot when it comes to promoting the benefits of full fat milk and formula.
That was according to Kendal Nutricare chief executive Ross McMahon, who needs very little prompting to extol the virtues of full fat infant formula and adult dairy-based nutrition products.
Based at Kendal, Cumbria, Mr McMahon bought the factory from Heinz in 2015 and set about establishing it as a global export business.
Sourcing considerable volumes of full fat milk powder from Yew Tree Dairy, Skelmersdale, Lancashire, the business does not have a dedicated pool of farmer suppliers, although Mr McMahon suggested this could be something the company potentially looked at in the future.
He said: “I came here in 2014, when Heinz was about to buy Kraft, so the rush to do the deal from their side was intense.”
Intense it may have been, but the company now has significant export deals in place and a growing presence within the UK retail space via supermarkets such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda.
But it is export which has driven the business forward, with a deal signed in China with the state-owned importer Orient International Holding Shanghai Foreign Trade Company, worth an estimated £350 million over the next decade.
He added: “I have worked in the food industry for 33 years and you realise that a lot of the production standards in different countries are not always enforced, in the USA for example.
“But, in China, the standards are incredibly high and we have to work with them to get Kendamil out there.”
And at a time when there are mixed messages about the benefits of full fat milk for human health, Mr McMahon is zealous in his promotion of this dairy asset, with particular disdain focused at infant formula manufacturers which use palm oil in their products.
He said: “It is unnatural to put palm oil in a child. By putting in whole milk, consumers are seeing a big difference [to their health] and that is a positive move for us and the dairy industry.”
But does he see Brexit as a threat or opportunity for his business? He comes down firmly on the latter.
He added: “Brexit, for me, is about currency movement. It is also an opportunity, because the Government is incentivising its staff to promote companies such as ours in overseas markets. Brexit has been a catalyst for this.”