Westpark Business Park is maturing a well-kept secret. From one of the ordinary business units, thousands of tonnes of traditional British cheeses are despatched every year to almost every part of the world.
Somerdale International, founded in 1990 by business partners Stephen Jones and Ernie Waldron, exports more than 200 refrigerated container loads of cheese – all from British dairy farmers and producers – to more than 50 countries around the globe every year. That’s a staggering 3000 tonnes of British cheese travelling annually to the Middle East, the United States, the Caribbean and Australia – and to a newly emerging market in China. There’s also some sold in India.
The company links producers of traditional and speciality cheeses from around the country to markets across the world. Most cheeses are sold under their own labels – such as cheddar made by the Barber family for eight generations from their farmhouse near Shepton Mallet – but the company also has its own Westminster and Somerdale brands.
Many of the cheeses are traditional English cheddars but there is a growing market for speciality cheeses such as Blue Stilton, Shropshire and aged Leicestershire. The company lists no fewer than 250 cheeses in its publicity, all of them classic, vintage, award-winning products from dairy farmers and producers with long histories of traditional cheese-making.
With an annual turn-over of £24 million – an increase of £7 million over the last three years – the success of the business, according to Director Alan Jenkins, is due to “treating each market individually. We have representatives in each of our major markets. These people know about local tastes. And they vary. For example, in New York customers like strong, sharp cheddars and blues but in Florida, the taste is for lighter, fruit cheeses and in Australia, Red Leicester is more popular that cheddar.
“ We have to know about regional palates. We are now sending cheeses by air freight to China every two weeks and learning about tastes there. This is certainly a developing market and classic English cheeses are proving very popular.”
The company moved from Taunton to Wellington in 2011 to bring distribution, management and administration under one roof. It currently employs thirteen staff on Westpark and has contracted sales teams across the globe.
So, if you see ‘Best of British’ cheeses in shops and supermarkets in, say, Saudi Arabia, Dubai or Los Angeles, it is likely that they have travelled there from Wellington.