COVID-19 Business Diversification: Hartington Creamery
With a rich history, the original Hartington creamery was established by the Duke of Devonshire in the 1870s, and produced a white crumbly Derbyshire cheese until it was partially destroyed by fire in 1894. After being reinstated, Hartington Creamery began producing Blue Stilton in 1900. Following the factory being closed for a number of years, production was re-launched in October 2012 with Peakland Blue and Peakland White cheeses being introduced. The production of Stilton followed this in 2014, the blue versions being the first of which were made in Derbyshire for 5 years at the time.
Now with Robert Gosling and Diana Alcock at the helm, Hartington Creamery Limited is proud to be the smallest Stilton maker in the world.
With the majority of their sales coming from hospitality & food service customers, Hartington Creamery lost 80% of their sales at the beginning of lockdown and held large amounts of stock due to cancelled orders.
Rather than face defeat, Robert and Diana approached as many potential customers as possible and worked hard to diversify their offering to meet changing demands – offering small pieces of pre-packed cheese (rather than the whole cheeses they normally sold) and getting involved in innovative new concepts such as home delivery services and cheese vending machines.
The team at Hartington Creamery were also thrilled to take part in the first Virtual Cheese Awards during lockdown and scooped 1st prize for their Shropshire Blue cheese.
Robert and Diana’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, and in June the New York Times interviewed Robert to highlight the effects the pandemic would have on UK Cheesemakers , and in particular the effect on Stilton. Following the article, the team at Hartington received over 60 enquiries from all over the world!
Due to their efforts, Hartington Creamery now supply over 50 customers compared to 15 pre-lockdown and have future-proofed the business for years to come.
Robert and Diana met with their FEAST2 Adviser, Trudi Waldram in August to undertake a diagnostic which looks at the current position of the business, growth plans and any barriers that may affect the growth. Trudi acted as a mentor to the business, providing advice and signposting to the relevant support required to meet their business goals.
Robert says “It’s been a really difficult few months and we’re still facing new challenges; we are starting to prepare for the Christmas period but it will be difficult to manage our stock which has a slow maturing process and a whole new customer base.
However, we are glad we to have gained so many new customers, and this will put us in a much stronger position moving forwards as we won’t be as heavily reliant on certain customers or orders as we were previously.
Our efforts are still focused on ‘getting through’ these uncertain times, but it was really helpful to have a conversation with Trudi and to start to think about our plans for the future. It’s reassuring that somebody is here to help and we can access the FEAST2 support as and when we need it.
The lockdown has forced us to revaluate the way we operate as a business but the future is now looking bright.”
The FEAST2 project has a range of services available to eligible food and drink manufacturers until September 2021, including; grant funding, business mentoring, industry events and food technical support.