As strong regional branding proves a hit with consumers, Hannah Binns caught up with Wensleydale Creamery to find out how its latest brand meets growing demand for cheese and butter within Yorkshire.
Tapping into the resurging butter and natural fats market is Yorkshire Creamery, a new division of the Wensleydale Creamery company.
Based in Hawes, Yorkshire, the company has honed the hand-crafted cheese skill since 1992 following a management buyout, using milk from its 41 local dairy farmers to produce its Wensleydale cheese.
With a £32 million turnover and 230 employees, the company launched its Yorkshire Creamery brand in September 2019 to meet growing demand in the wider dairy category for cheese and butter.
Sandra Bell, marketing manager, said: “It took us a year to go from concept to shelf.
“Market research revealed the word Yorkshire had positive connotations among consumers, promoting authentic, local and honest values, which we felt encompassed the very ethos of our company."
The cheeses, Yorkshire Cheddar, Yorkshire Red and Double Yorkshire, were launched into retail first, with butter following in April 2020.
“Butter was the next logical step for the company as it is synonymous with cheesemaking, allowing us to utilise the whey cream leftover from the cheesemaking process (85 per cent),” said Ms Bell.
In 2015, the company spent £6m on a new creamery, with £1m invested in whey processing and separation.
However, as the site does not have the facilities to make its batch-churned butter, the whey cream is currently sent to a manufacturer in..... for production.
“In the future, we aspire to have our own buttermaking facilities on-site," Ms Bell added.
Covid-19 saw the company’s visitors centre at Hawes, which attracts more than 350,000 visitors annually, close, with the decline in deli-counters causing further concern for the business.
“Luckily, we had already made the decision to sell our Yorkshire Creamery cheeses and butter pre-packed, so they were able to be sold on retailer shelves,” Ms Bell said.
“Milk collections and cheesemaking also continued regardless of the pandemic, and we are pleased the butter has had such a strong reception two months in.
“In fact, there was a nationwide butter shortage due to the spike in home-baking at one point, which may have helped our sales performance.
“Our mail order service has also had phenomenal growth since people could not visit the centre during lockdown to purchase our products. Our online deli experience has seen more than 100 orders a day processed and we have the infrastructure in place to continue this service post-lockdown.”
The Yorkshire Creamery cheeses are available to purchase in northern stores of Morrisons, Booths, Tesco, Waitrose and Co-op.
The butter, which retails at £2.25 for a 250g block, is available in regional stores (Yorkshire and the Humber) of Tesco and Waitrose (northern), from their online deli wensleydale.co.uk.
It is hoped Asda will stock the Yorkshire Creamery cheeses and butter later this year.
Ms Bell said: “It is important for us to make our brand work in the heartland and manage its growth in line with our production aspirations.
“We have included our farmers in all aspects of communication and brand growth and they are incredibly proud to see their milk go into finish products on the shelves for people to enjoy.”