Ryanair laps up Lakeland's milk stick innovation
LAKELAND Dairies is rolling out an innovative new "milk stick" product in what it claims is a global first that's already been bought in bulk by Ryanair, as the dairy co-op prepares for expansion with the abolition of milk quotas.
Chief executive Michael Hanley says the "milk sticks", similar in appearance to sugar sachets, are the only viable product of their kind in the world and designed to replace the bulky pods currently used to store long-life UHT milk on flights, trains and other locations where fresh milk is not readily available.
Slim and easy to store, they have been on the market for five weeks. They have already been snapped up by Ryanair and McDonald's in the UK and Ireland are also placing an order. Lakeland has ploughed €5m into new facilities at its plant at Killeshandra in Cavan to produce the milk sticks.
The Cavan-headquartered dairy co-op, which processed more than 700 million litres of milk last year into foods and food ingredients for customers like Danone and Nestle, unveiled the new product alongside its 2013 annual results. The accounts reveal both a record operating profit (€11.7m) on revenues up 15pc to €546m, and a record price paid out to milk suppliers. "We didn't make a profit at the expense of suppliers," said Mr Hanley.
"It's a good time to be a diary farmer," he told the Irish Independent, discussing the co-op's expansion plans in preparation for the long-awaited abolition of milk quotas in 2015 which will remove limits on how much milk Irish farmers can produce.
"We've surveyed our suppliers twice since 2011 and they plan to produce between 35 and 45pc more milk over the next six years," he said, while cautioning that there may be a dip in global milk prices in the near future. "There's a lot of extra milk in the system at the moment, driven by high prices."
Developing markets are increasingly important, he said.
"All of our customers are looking for new products, particularly those that suit tastes in developing markets. Europe is challenged, but there's a big world outside of Europe."
Long-life UHT milk and non-dairy creamers are particularly popular in China. The company has chefs in place in foreign markets who design products that best suit local tastes, he added.
Mr Hanley also outlined the unique challenges faced by a dairy processor supplying multinationals – namely, constant audits.
Lakeland facilities are audited by customers every six or seven days, he said, often unannounced. "At one point we had two unannounced audits within 24 hours," he said. "It's routine by now."