11 May 2023, 10:46 AM
  • With dairy products becoming a basic – if sometimes overpriced – commodity in 2023, we explore how indie retailers can push for better
How indies can make a call for quality in the dairy industry

Look through the nation’s fridges in 2023 and you’ll be hard-pushed to find one which doesn’t contain the simple dairy products which have become such staples of our diet over the past few generations – milk, butter, yoghurt and cream. Even consumers following vegan diets are likely to have plant-based alternatives to these items in stock on a regular basis.

But with two key forces at work in the market right now – the cost-of-living crisis and the need for greater uptake of sustainable options – stocking the right products, which customers on a budget will buy, is a challenge.

Harry Jackson, founder of 100% natural butter business Winter Tarn Dairy, agrees that such products have become staples in the British diet. “Dairy products are used in everyday life in a whole range of other products and are a big focus when it comes to what we consume in Britain, he begins. “Dairy plays a part in helping many of us maintain a healthy balanced diet and as it’s a natural food free from artificial ingredients it is also kinder to our bodies.”

Quality is king
While nobody could argue with the ubiquity, versatility and health benefits prominent within dairy products, it’s well worth going one step further and working with producers who share the independent retailer’s modus operandi of sourcing considerately and smartly – particularly from suppliers who hold themselves accountable for high sustainable credentials. “Producing a quality dairy product benefits the environment, the economy and also people’s health,” Harry continues.

“Firstly, it allows the producers we work with, specifically the farmers and dairies in our supply chain to set the price they need to earn an income and operate sustainably. Secondly, by paying a higher price for a properly produced product it allows us and our producers to look at our environmental impact and how we can change or modify that for the better.”

“When a consumer chooses to buy good quality organic dairy, it doesn’t just benefit their health, it benefits the planet,” agrees a spokesperson from Daylesford, the organic farm and retailer.

“Intensively farmed milk might be cheaper to purchase but it is to the detriment of the animal’s health and longevity. Good quality dairy like ours will be produced sustainably and will protect the welfare of the animals. As for the consumer’s health, choosing organic means they can be sure that the product won’t be associated with
antibiotics or any heavy chemicals linked to mass farming that may pass from grass, to cow, to milk.”

A sustainable future
Daylesford has long been a champion of environmentally sound practices, promoting the cause across its bricks-and-mortar and online platforms. “We are passionate about farming sustainably and organically to protect our landscapes and the ecosystems around our farm.” the spokesperson states.

“Daylesford Organic is a regenerative and sustainable farm, working in harmony with nature to replenish and strengthen the land, providing healthy, nutritious food and drawing carbon down into the ground, removing it from the atmosphere. Everything we produce aligns with our ethos, and this includes our dairy herd and The Dairy where we produce our award-winning milks, cheeses, kefir and yoghurt.”

For Winter Tarn Dairy, the future of high quality, consciously-produced dairy products is looking sound, thanks to an increased interest in sustainability and dairy products’ versatility, ease of access and benefits to people and planet. “Whenever we are asked where someone should start when switching to organic products, we always recommend milk and dairy products at the top of the list as it benefits both the customer’s health and the environment. We expect our customers to continue to invest in this category.”

The health credentials which form the foundation of quality dairy products are evolving, with brands across mainstream and independent categories catering for the demand for high protein and gut-friendly options such as natural live yoghurts and kefirs.

“We are predicting an increase in demand for cultured milk products based on health reasons,” says Harry, and as a result the business is planning to expand its range of yoghurts and kefirs over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, Daylesford’s range of consciously-produced dairy products is extensive and growing. “Our range covers milks, butter, yoghurts and cheeses, many of which are award-winning,” explains its spokesperson.

“Our cheeses are made using traditional methods and we have some classics like the Single and Double Gloucesters, plus our own creations like the Adlestrop, Penyston and Baywell. We started producing kefir several years ago, which has been hugely popular. There are three flavours: Organic Milk Kefir; Organic Blueberry & Açaí Kefir; and Organic Ginger, Turmeric & Honey Kefir.”

A smart, sustainable approach to production is reaping tangible rewards. “As a sustainable farm, we like to close the loop and avoid any wastage which is how we came to
sell our Buttermilk. It is made from the liquid left behind after churning the cream for butter and creates a creamy, tangy, low-fat, high protein and versatile ingredient.”