New Investment at Crantit Amid Uncertain Times
ADVERTORIAL: ORKNEY Creamery has moved to make a longterm investment in new production equipment at its Crantit dairy, despite uncertainty over the future brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The first phase of the new project has seen £80,000 of new machinery installed on site, part funded by grant from HIE.
Operations Director Graham Bichan said “we have made a significant investment in new separating and homogenising equipment. This is the kit that does the job of splitting the cream out of the milk, and then mixing milk and cream back together at the desired level to give the skimmed, semi-skimmed and full-fat range. Importantly, the new equipment will improve the quality of the cream for our ice-cream production, while also improving the skimmed milk to allow us to develop a new range of products including Orkney yoghurt.”
In a nod to the long history of milk production at Crantit, Graham explained “we experienced some production issues at the back end of last year and some customers may have noticed the appearance of a cream line on our milk at that time. That is to do with the homogenisation process. The new equipment has taken our milk back to its very best, while at the same time opening new opportunities for ice-cream, yoghurt, butter and so on. To be fair, the original equipment was over 60 years old and had been on site here for most of that time. Dad was almost sorry to see it go!”
Turning to the future for Crantit amid the turmoil brought on by coronavirus, managing director Dennis Bichan explained “it is an absolutely critical time for us now at Crantit. We have been processing milk here since 1972 and things have never been quite so uncertain. On one hand, we have a very welcome upturn in demand for doorstep deliveries, which have always been the lifeblood of our business, but on the other, losing the summer season for ice-cream risks everything.”
The focus on buying local has never been more important than it is now for Orkney milk, as Dennis continued, “younger folk may not realise it, but in the past most milk was delivered fresh to the door, and there were lots of smaller dairies operating. Over the years, Crantit became the only remaining processor as others were acquired or simply stopped trading. In more recent times, the supermarket own-brand milk has had a particular impact on us. We simply can’t compete on price with their in-house milk, but there are really good reasons for that and we think it is important folk understand the difference. All our milk is bought from Orkney Cheese, who guarantee to take all the milk volume produced by local dairy farms at a guaranteed price. This is fairer for the farmers and helps them invest to maintain the highest welfare standards. All fourteen dairy farms in Orkney hold Red Tractor accreditiation. This ensures milk of the finest quality, but comes at a premium relative to the price paid to farmers by the big milk processors south. So the key thing for us is to encourage folk, where they can afford to make the choice, to opt for Orkney milk as the benefit goes right back to the Orkney farmers, as well as supporting the processing jobs at Orkney Cheese and here at Crantit.”
Recognising the importance of the new investment in the dairy, Richard Herdman, chairman of Orkney Cheese, said “We have a long-standing and close working relationship with Crantit, so I was delighted to see them make this investment and demonstrate their commitment to Orkney milk.”
In an effort to save something from the summer for ice-cream sales, new arrangements for ensuring local folk can enjoy Orkney ice-cream even during lockdown have been put in place by Graham and his sister Katie. Graham explained “really it was the diversification into ice-cream that kept the creamery going here in recent years and sales tend to rise and fall with the weather in any case, but the lockdown across the country has hit us pretty hard. We really appreciate the support from the local market, though, and we are working to ensure folk can still get our ice-cream through a new Drive Thru arrangement that we are putting in place.
The new equipment means we have fantastic opportunities for the future, for new product ranges as well as new flavours, we just need to get through the current crisis first. The more folk that opt for Orkney milk and Orkney ice-cream, whether delivered to the door, in their local shop, or actively chosen in the supermarket, the better the prospects are for another 50 years milk processing at Crantit.”
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