Following a five-year hiatus at the factory, Beston has begun production of its first batches of parmesan cheese, intended for sale in Australia and the export market.
BFC chief executive officer Sean Ebert said this was the first step into other varieties of hard cheese, including gruyere, raclette and tilset.
“We have refurbished and returned the former hard cheese line, with a production capacity of 250 tonnes per annum, back into production and brought it to export standard,” he said. “This has included the installation of a state-of-the-art maturation room and has created additional employment at the factory.”
Mr Ebert said the expansion was in response to requests from existing Australian customers, seeking locally-made European-style hard cheeses.
The expansion will create new job opportunities within the Murray Bridge region.
“Parmesan production alone required five additional staff, while our wider expansion in hard cheese represents 15 new local jobs,” he said.
Mr Ebert said the company planned to reach 250 tonnes of hard cheese production capacity in the coming 12 months.
There are also plans to commission a new mozzarella line towards the end of this year, which would bring the throughput of Beston to 100 million litres of milk each year. Equipment for the mozzarella facility has already begun to arrive in SA with the rest expected to arrive by August.
Mr Ebert said the milk would be sourced from the company’s own farms and other local contract suppliers.
This comes as the company also announced it was relinquishing its investment with organic diary producer B.-d. Farm Paris Creek and also agreed to sell the Wellington dairy farm owned by Beston to Paris Creek.
The income from these sales will bring in $7m to Bestons which will be used to expand the dairy operations of Beston Pure Dairies further.
Beston had owned a 26.5 per cent indirect interest in B.-d. Farm Paris Creek prior to its initial public offering.
In the past few years, B.-d. Farm Paris Creek has extended its factory, completed in November, and is in the process of upgrading its milk filling line, installing an extended shelf life production facility and establishing a yoghurt filling line.
Beston also acquired a dairy farm at Wellington which was leased back to the original owners during its conversion to bio-dynamic status, under the guidance of Paris Creek, in order to increase the supply of milk to Paris Creek.
Bestons released a statement saying Bestons Pure Dairies and Paris Creek had begun to compete with each other, with the Paris Creek launch of a non-organic range of dairy products under the Adelaide Hills brand.
“Both businesses are also competing for milk supply, which has tightened up in the past 12 months as more dairyfarmers have exited the industry,” the statement said.
The board of Beston decided its investments in the dairy industry will generate greater returns to shareholders by being deployed solely within Beston Pure Dairies to obtain economies of scale and develop new products without conflicts of interest with Paris Creek.