Dale Farm to invest €82m expanding NI cheddar factory

Co-op’s move will boost cheese capacity by 20,000 tonnes and increase production of whey protein concentrate

Dale Farm, the Northern Ireland co-operative, has announced plans to invest £70 million (€81.65 million) in an upgrade of its cheddar cheese manufacturing plant at Dunmanbridge, Co Tyrone.

The co-op says the investment, announced on Monday, is one of the largest in the history of Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry and will boost production at the Tyrone plant by 20,000 tonnes a year.

“This investment will be transformative not just for Dale Farm, but for the Northern Ireland rural economy,” said group chief executive Nick Whelan.

The plans will mean Dale Farm integrates state-of-the-art technologies and equipment at the site, making significant sustainability gains as well as boosting production.


It comes on the back of successive years of impressive growth for the co-operative, which is owned by 1,300 farmers across Northern Ireland, England and Scotland and employs about 1,200 people.

The co-op reported turnover in the 12 months to end-March 2023 of £728 million, up 23 per cent over the previous year. Profits before tax surged by 21 per cent to £26.77 million.

Mr Whelan said the decision to invest in the site was made in response to continued customer growth across the UK, Europe and beyond, with the Tyrone plant exporting cheddar to 40 countries worldwide.

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Work on the site expansion is already well under way with the co-op saying it is on track to go live in February of next year

“As well as improving and replacing existing site-wide services and utilities, the expansion will include a new high-speed automated cheese slicing line, an increased warehouse footprint and investment in new patented products and processes,” said Mr Whelan.

On top of the 20,000 extra tonnes of cheddar that the investment will permit, it will also increase capacity in the site’s whey protein concentrate capacity.

The co-op says the Dunmanbridge site directly supports more than 1,100 families in the local area, with 345 employed on-site and a further 760 farms, out of Dale Farm’s 1,280 milk producers, supplying milk to it.

“We want to continue to lead the sector in Northern Ireland and beyond and cement our region as a global leader in quality, sustainability, and innovation,” said Mr Whelan.

“We’re also investing in sustainability and as a result of this expansion our carbon footprint will see a significant reduction, marking another important milestone on our journey towards net zero.”

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle

Dominic Coyle is Deputy Business Editor of The Irish Times