Off the shelf.

Dairy News Australia - - NEWS -

IN AN era of ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion, squeezed re­tail mar­gins and in­creased au­to­ma­tion, a fam­ily-owned mi­cro dairy based Mel­bourne’s in­ner north is sell­ing fresh milk, and batch-churned but­ter and yo­ghurt to a grow­ing num­ber of cus­tomers in both whole­sale and re­tail mar­kets. Tucked away in the hip­ster heart­land of Fitzroy, St David Dairy is the brain­child of fourth gen­er­a­tion Koroit dairy worker Ben Evans, who four years ago saw a gap in the mar­ket for a sin­gle ori­gin, lo­cally-pro­cessed milk which could be sold to the area’s buzzing café and restau­rant scene. “Mov­ing to Mel­bourne from coun­try Vic­to­ria I no­ticed there was an­other sort of food move­ment which was more con­cerned with where food was from and how it was pro­duced,” Mr Evans told Off The Shelf. “Both con­sumers and busi­ness own­ers were forg­ing new ground in terms of want­ing di­rect re­la­tion­ships with pro­duc­ers,” he said “You could see the menus chang­ing in cafes. It didn’t just say ba­con and eggs any­more, it said where it was from.” Ini­tially hop­ing to start a cheese mak­ing busi­ness, the trained food tech­nol­o­gist re­alised there was an op­por­tu­nity to start a mi­cro dairy with less cap­i­tal and min­i­mal equip­ment but a strong fo­cus on qual­ity. “We couldn’t af­ford to buy a stan­dard­i­s­a­tion sys­tem, and a sep­a­ra­tor which would pull milk apart, put it back to­gether and take stuff out. It didn’t in­ter­est us any­way and it turned out as a pos­i­tive.” Cus­tomers are alerted to any sea­sonal vari­a­tion in the com­po­si­tion of the milk through di­rect con­ver­sa­tions, email inquiries or via the com­pany’s news­let­ter. A 9 m x 5 m square area pro­cesses up to 10 000 litres of milk per day, five days a week, sourced from Glenn and Rose Ather­ton’s pri­mar­ily Friesian herd in Drouin. Gipp­s­land cream is sourced sep­a­rately from a lo­cal cheese fac­tory. “All the cream ends up in our milk, which is why we needed an ad­di­tional sup­plier for our but­ter and cream,” Mr Evans said. Mr Evans says his cus­tomers are pre­pared to pay the es­ti­mated 5c a cup ex­tra for qual­ity milk. “A lot of the cafes say that it’s so im­por­tant to get the cof­fee right and once they do, the ex­tra charge for milk pays for it­self in more cof­fees sold per day.” The rich, full fla­vor of the milk has al­ready re­ceived high praise from the in­dus­try, tak­ing out the RASV Fine Food Awards — Best In Class Tro­phy for its non-ho­mogenised full cream milk last year and achiev­ing a Gold Award for its ho­mogenised milk at this year’s Dairy In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia Awards. The yo­ghurt is made sim­ply, with­out thick­en­ers, gums or sta­bi­liz­ers, and sold in nat­u­ral, or­ganic pan­ela (un­re­fined cane sugar) or vanilla and pan­ela flavours. “We are on trend and we popped up at the right time when the trend was get­ting back to ba­sics.” Ninety per­cent of St David Dairy prod­uct is sold within 9 km of the fac­tory to restau­rants, cafes and Io­cal IGAs and spe­cialty gro­cers. The com­pany is ex­plor­ing op­tions for dis­tri­bu­tion in re­gional Vic­to­ria. Mr Evans says the size of the site means they prob­a­bly have room to grow pro­duc­tion by an­other 20 per cent be­fore he would have to start think­ing about al­ter­na­tive sites or big­ger plans, but he says he’s not get­ting ahead of him­self. “It’s about man­ag­ing growth so you don’t lose the thing that peo­ple went to you in the first place. We’re very con­scious of that.” He’s also fully sup­port­ive of other bou­tique brands find­ing their place in the mar­ket. “If we could get back to where there’s 100 strong lo­cal brands in Aus­tralia, it just gives ev­ery­one more op­tions and value adds across the chain.”

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