The makers of Wensleydale cheese returned to profit last year after strategic investments started to yield ‘major benefits’.
Wensleydale Dairy Products made a pre-tax profit of £434,391 in the year to the end of March 2017 after a pre-tax loss of £182,460 the year before.
Turnover remained broadly flat – £26.1m compared to £25.3m the previous year, according to its latest accounts filed at Companies House.
The business, which supplies UK supermarkets as well as delicatessens, said it was starting to see the benefits of a £5m investment made the previous year in a new creamery at its site in Hawes as well as cheese blending and packing facilities at its Kirkby Malzeard site.
In a report accompanying the figures, managing director David Hartley said: “The strategic significant investments undertaken in 2014/15 have started to yield major benefits in efficiencies, quality and profitability.”
The company sold 4,664 tonnes of cheese during the financial year, a 6.7 per cent increase year on year.
Meanwhile, visitor numbers increased 20 per cent to 300,000 during the year and spend per head also rose.
The business said its new website and e-commerce platform had ‘significantly improved’ its Wensleydale brand visibility across all devices.
Mr Hartley added: “((It has) enabled the business to trade more effectively online with mail order sales demonstrating growth. Consumer engagement with our brand via social media platforms is also gaining good traction, with activity and interaction with other key partnership brands contributing positively.”
The company generated net cash in excess of £2m, compared to £300,000 the previous year from its operating activities in the year. It invested £1.3m of this figure in a new whey processing and reverse osmosis plant.
The process takes water out of the processed whey to produce whey concentrate and lactose concentrate, which can be fed to dairy cows or supplied to an anaerobic plant to produce energy.
“By-product markets have been particularly buoyant and we are seeing enhanced returns in the current financial year,” said Mr Hartley.
Looking ahead, Mr Hartley said the company continues to focus on the development of branded sales of its Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese, which has European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.
“This PGI status gives us the opportunity to differentiate our product from other more generic Wensleydale Cheese not made in Yorkshire,” he added.
“The demand for genuine Yorkshire Wensleydale continues to grow and the company is looking to capitalise on this market.”
The company is also growing into new markets and is particularly concentrating on expanding overseas sales. Mr Hartley said: “The US and Canada are our principal export markets. However, we are also developing sales in Europe, Middle East and Far East.
“Innovation is a key focus of our business and we are constantly developing new cheeses, flavours for cheeses, product formats and packaging in order to keep pace with market developments and ultimately increase our sales.”
Mr Hartley added: “As we go into 2018 we feel confident and ambitious – we’re developing the team, investing in our two sites, launching new products, updating and adapting in line with market needs.
“We are globally renowned for our traditional cheese-making skills, as well as bringing innovation to the world of dairy, and, as we continue to build on our strong relationships with our customers, we are looking to grow and develop into new markets.”