First Milk tanker new logo 1

Source: First Milk 

BV Dairy posted sales of just under £60m last year, with operating profits of £3.3m

Dairy co-op First Milk has acquired Dorset-based supplier Blackmore Vale Farm Cream (also known as BV Dairy), which manufactures a host of products for the food manufacturing and foodservice sectors.

The deal – the value of which has not been disclosed – will see BV Dairy continue as a standalone business unit under the First Milk umbrella, said CEO Shelagh Hancock.

BV Dairy sources its milk from 28 grass-fed farms based within 30 miles of its Dorset HQ. It manufactures products ranging from yoghurts to clotted cream and soft cheese, with co-packing deals with the likes of Biotiful Gut Health and HelloFresh.

The business turned over £58.1m last year, according to Companies House data for the year to 31 March 2023. This represented an increase of 34.8% on 2022 levels. Operating profit also rose significantly, from £236k to £3.3m, on the back of what the business described as “a recovery from two years of trading that were depressed due to external factors”.

The third-generation family business came on the market due to the desire of MD Jim Highnam to retire, Hancock said. However, she added Highnam would continue to lead the business in the short-term at least.

BV possessed an “end-to-end” dairy operation, from manufacturing to chilled storage and distribution. It was “a good strategic and cultural fit” for First Milk, added Hancock, who described the supplier as “a high-value business” with “considerable opportunities for the future”.

Like First Milk, BV had “a focus on people and community, environmental performance, exceptional quality and long-term value creation,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming the wider BV Dairy family into our First Milk family.

“The BV Dairy business has strong customer relationships and a reputation for quality and service across food manufacture and foodservice. This provides a genuine extension to our business, extending our manufacturing and market reach, offering a platform for the further growth and development of our business.”

First Milk farmer director and vice-chairman Mike Smith added: “This purchase builds on the existing strengths of First Milk and will bring wider benefits, adding value for our members whilst creating opportunities for our colleagues and enabling us to extend our regenerative positioning into a broader range of dairy products and customers. This is a great step forward as we work together to secure the future.”

BV MD Highnam said: “Having made the decision to sell the business, we wanted to ensure that the new owners would provide a secure future for our customers, colleagues, farmers and suppliers.

“As such, I’m pleased to finalise this transaction and see BV Dairy become part of First Milk, as both businesses share a down-to-earth, pragmatic approach, balancing the needs of all stakeholders. I look forward to working with our new First Milk colleagues to continue to grow and develop BV Dairy.”

First Milk – which specialises in dairy ingredients and cheese production, selling to partners such as Pilgrims Choice owner Ornua Foods UK – saw sales increase by 38% to £456m during the year ending 31 March 2023. Operating profit before exceptional items was described as “stable” at £5.1m – the same level as its previous financial period.