One year on for Stephenson’s Dairy and Free Range Dairy …
I was at Cup North, part of Spin Manchester, this weekend helping Chris of Stephenson’s Dairy with his milk stand. Chris was also providing all the Free Range milk for the coffee roasters J Atkinson & Co. Ltd, Casa Expresso and Ancoats Coffee Co, that went through 140 litres of Free Range milk in one day, that’s a lot of milk and coffees!
In between giving out shots of Free Range milk, we chatted about the fact that Saturday was the one-year anniversary since Chris with his wife and business partner Steph decided to change all their conventional milk to Free Range Dairy under the Pasture promise label.
The reason I wanted to work with Free Range Dairy is because we want to offer our customers a better product. The aim is always to give the customer the best service and the best products possible and Free Range Dairy can offer my customers something they want, a guarantee that cows have the freedom to graze, a fair reward for farmers and it tastes great.
We were getting fed up of working in a business we care about but it seemed to be all about driving the dairy business into the ground. Competing on nothing but price. We wanted to compete on something different and Free Range Dairy brought a new and interesting initiative to the dairy industry for us.
We thought that it would take off a lot quicker than it did. Then we realised people believe they are already getting all their milk from cows that graze. That just isn’t the case and we needed to work to raise awareness of this issue. The Duke of Westminster who runs Grosvenor Farms is Tesco’s largest milk supplier with their milk coming from an intensive dairy farm, but that doesn’t appear anywhere on the milk label.
We told our customers about why we were switching and once they had that information they said yes to it. They see Free Range Dairy Pasture Promise as a quick way to make an informed choice about the type of milk they want to buy. Our customers support us and what Free Range Dairy stands for. We work with a smaller independent processor and local farms to bring milk to market that supports our communities and local people. We asked our milkmen if they wanted to convert back as the price of milk is being driven to the floor and they said no. Their customers want Free Range milk and are prepared to pay the extra for it as it gives them the product and taste they want. People get suspicious if milk is too cheap, they think what’s wrong with it, how was it produced, where did it come from? We sell an excellent product at a price that supports local dairy farmers and keeps cows on graze for a minimum of six months. That’s one of the important points to make. Others can show pictures of cows grazing on their label but what does that really mean unless they have made a proper commitment to that grazing. Our Free Range milk under the Pasture Promise label guarantees a minimum of 6 months (180 days and nights) of grazing.
It seems lots of people are having the same thoughts as us about wanting to source products that are ethical, sustainable and support local businesses. We are seeing this with the growth of food assemblies but also with coffee roasters. They’re proud of the beans they source for their coffee and support the coffee farmers. They see Free Range Dairy and how the milk is produced as a great partner to their coffee. We deliver Free Range milk under the Pasture Promise to a wide variety of places from doorstep milk deliveries, shops like Spar, food assemblies, coffee roasters and cafes as well as Ancoats general store. Anywhere people want to buy an ethically, sustainably produced milk – we can provide it.
Coming up we have a farm event where we’re taking some potential new clients to meet the cows and one of our Free Range Dairy farmers. We will be working with Cup North again in November 2016. We were really pleased to be nominated for a Red Rose award because of our work with Free Range Dairy and we are also shortlisted for BIBAs.
Looking back over the year it’s been hard work but a great experience. To be honest I feel we’re just at the beginning. I for one am looking forward to the great things to come for Stephenson’s and Free Range milk.