Devon dairy harnesses University expertise

A fast-growing Devon dairy business is aiming to increase its sales as facilities and expertise from Plymouth University help uncover the science behind its products. A collaboration with the University will enable Langage Farm to create more consistency across its range of more than 100 different ice creams, creams, cheeses and yoghurts.

The firm, which is based just outside Plymouth, has embarked on its second Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University, to understand the science behind small seasonal variations in the dairy products’ appearance and texture. KTP Associate Anna Tatkiewicz will spend 30 months with the business to ascertain what causes the changes and determine how the firm can alter its processes to deliver more consistent products to its customers, which include some of the UK’s leading supermarkets.

This follows a collaboration between Langage Farm and Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre (PEMC), which is part of the University. The dairy had noticed small differences in the consistency of different batches of its soft cheese and, after attending an industry event hosted by PEMC, asked the team to help it examine the products more closely. By spending a day generating high resolution images of the cheese using PEMC’s scanning electron microscopes, the firm was able to analyse the different micro-structures across a range of batches.

Established 25 years ago, PEMC was recently transformed as part of a £1.3 million project, funded by the University, JEOL (UK) Ltd and a £579,960 grant from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), which gave Langage Farm and other businesses free access to its state-of-the-art facilities.

Langage Farm was so pleased with the results from PEMC, that the firm wanted to further its collaboration with the University. The KTP is enabling the business to investigate the science behind its products and work out how it can adapt its processing to make improvements. The firm has also tasked Plymouth Business School students with producing marketing plans to boost sales of its yoghurts.

Paul Winterton of Langage Farm said: 

“We are working with natural, live products, so understand that there will be some variation across different batches of our cheese, creams and yoghurts. However, we are always striving to improve quality and believe that delivering a more consistent texture will help us grow our sales. The finishing line for quality has no end.

“When we first found out about PEMC we were really impressed to have such a great, accessible resource on our doorstep. Following this interaction with the University I was keen to do more. The KTP and the work we are doing with the Plymouth Business School students will give us valuable insights to help us improve our products and the way we promote them. We are also proud to be providing employment for a new graduate and to be giving students a valuable real-life business scenario to learn from. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Langage Farm accessed PEMC’s expertise, through GAIN (the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network). GAIN is enabling Plymouth University to work with partners across the South West to help businesses achieve their growth potential.

Adrian Dawson, Head of GAIN Projects and Partnerships said: 

“I am delighted that PEMC has paved the way for this partnership. This is a really exciting collaboration, which should deliver real benefits to a local business as well as providing a talented graduate with a great career opportunity. It is also a perfect example of how PEMC’s recent transformation is enabling the University to engage with more businesses across the region.”