The Co-operative awards milk contract to Robert Wiseman Dairies

March 16, 2011

The Co-operative Group has today (16 March 2011) announced that it has awarded its own-brand milk contract to Robert Wiseman Dairies under a new two-year agreement commencing August this year.

The new agreement*, which will see the Group move to a dedicated milk supply scheme, follows The Co-operative’s successful integration of the Somerfield supermarket chain.

Around 350 British dairy farmers are expected to benefit from the new dedicated supply scheme, by receiving a premium for supplying some 363m litres of milk a year to around 4, 000 Co-operative food stores** from August onwards.

By moving to dedicated supply, The Co-operative is also committed to setting clear standards in animal welfare, minimising environmental impact and encouraging bio-diversity on the farms selected for the scheme.

Tim Hurrell, Chief Executive of The Co-operative Group’s food business, said: “We are delighted to be fulfilling the commitment we made to farmers at the height of the Somerfield integration. In partnership with our processor, we will set up a dedicated group of dairy farmers from the Wiseman Milk Partnership,   and we will develop long-term, transparent relationships. The foundation for this will be our Food Ethical Policy and the DEFRA ‘dairy roadmap’, with the focus on animal welfare, environmental stewardship and carbon footprint reduction.”

He added: "Wiseman has been a valued supplier to The Co-operative for many years, and has consistently demonstrated high service levels and has proved to pay, on average, a higher standard farm gate milk price to British dairy farmers than any other major liquid milk processor.

"Wiseman is focussed on sustainability, and its flagship site at Bridgwater is one of the most efficient and environmentally advanced dairies in the world."

Billy Keane, Managing Director at Robert Wiseman Dairies, commented: “We are very pleased to further extend our relationship with The Co-operative Group, and delighted that this important customer has taken the decision to set up a dedicated group of dairy farmers drawn from the Wiseman Milk Partnership who will benefit from a premium farm gate milk price.

"We have invested heavily to create a network of dairies focussed on fresh milk and worked hard to build a reputation for quality and service. We now look forward to working closely with The Co-operative Group over the next few months to put these new fresh milk supply arrangements in place.”

The move to a dedicated milk supply chain forms part of The Co-operative's ongoing support for British agriculture as Britain’s biggest farmer and its fifth largest food retailer. Through its farming business, The Co-operative Farms, it grows a range of products including strawberries, potatoes, onions, shallots and apples, all of which are stocked in Co-operative stores, which always support British fresh produce, when in season.

In addition, all Co-operative brand fresh and frozen primary beef, pork, chicken, duck and turkey is 100% British, and all Co-operative brand bacon, sausage, gammon and ham (excluding continental products) is produced using only British meat.

As part of the Group’s Ethical Operating Plan, The Co-operative Farms is aiming to supply 25% of all fresh produce sold in Co-operative stores by 2015, and later this month it will extend its higher welfare Elmwood standards for chicken and turkey to pork.

Notes to Editors:

* Robert Wiseman Dairies currently supplies around 75% of The Co-operative’s own-brand conventional milk, with the remaining 25% supplied by Dairy Crest. Under the terms of the new dedicated supply agreement, from August 2011, Wiseman will take responsibility for 100% of the volume requirement (circa 363m litres p.a.).

** The agreement covers the supply of own-brand milk to food stores within the Co-operative Retail Trading Group (CRTG), which includes The Co-operative Group and independent Co-operative Societies.