Dairy business rises to the top

A FOCUS on paddock-to-plate production has helped well-known Tasmanian dairy company Ashgrove Cheese win a national award.

The company’s Pure Cream was one of three Tasmanian-made products to win champion titles at this week’s Australian Grand Dairy Awards. Ashgrove managing director Richard Bennett said this was the fourth time the business won a champion award at the national competition, which this year included 320 products. “Cream is one of our staple products,” he said.

“We only do a natural cream, so our cream is at about 42 per cent fat, which is a bit higher than the normal thickened cream you see. “We’re trying to do a pouring cream that retains that texture, so we go at a slightly higher fat level. It gives you that smooth pure cream, which really relates to the flavour as well.”

Mr Bennett said like all Ashgrove products, the process of making an award-winning cream started with producing top-quality milk.

“The great thing about winning this award for cream is it’s a real reflection on our paddock-to-plate story. “So what happens out in the paddocks here is as much a contribution as what they do in the factory, so it’s a real team effort.”

Due to demand Ashgrove’s cream it is only sold in Tasmania. “We purely keep our cream for Tasmania,” he said.

“It’s a premium product and we’re trying to do it as natural as we can and that’s its point of difference as opposed to the thickened cream you see on the shelf.”

As consumer habits have changed and more people make the shift back to full-cream milk, Mr Bennett said keeping up supplies for cream and butter was an ongoing challenge.

“We’ve really had to restrict where we sell both of those products,” he said. Mr Bennett said cream was generally a by-product of skim milk production, so as drinking patterns changed, cream and butter were becoming at a premium for the whole industry.

After a major redevelopment at the company’s Elizabeth Town factory, which features a large on-site café, shop and display area, Ashgrove now employs about 120 people across the business.

The awards recognise excellence and quality in Australian dairy across 18 classes including milk, yoghurts, ice creams, butter, cream and an array of cheeses.

Chief judge Russell Smith said the awards were about highlighting local manufacturers and celebrating innovation.

“Australia has incredible dairy producers, and we know Australians care about the provenance of their food more than ever,” he said. “These awards put the best of the best in the spotlight.”

Other Tasmanian products to win champion titles in this year’s Grand Dairy awards were King Island Dairy’s Stokes Point Smoked Cheddar in the flavoured cheese section and the Duck River Premium Butter in the butter, flavoured butter or butter blend category.