Me and My Factory

Cheese success is based on innovation: Windyridge

Innovation has played a key role in Windyridge Cheese’s success, says Melvin Glynn (right), pictured with son Matthew

Windyridge Cheese boss Melvin Glynn explains why the key to success is innovation.

As a specialist blender, we offer a range of cheeses with both traditional and unusual flavours.

The business is run by me and my son Matthew (pictured left). In all though, our 14-strong workforce has a combined 118 years of cheese-blending experience.

I have worked on and off in the cheese sector for around 35 years, most recently at Ilchester Cheese, where I led a management buyout in 2004, and was md until the business was sold to Norseland in 2008.

After a short spell as md of Burts Chips, I decided I wanted to get back into cheese – and specifically, find a small company that I could develop and grow.

Windyridge Cheese was a husband and wife team operating from High Winds, a farm just outside Wincanton, when I bought the business in 2012. At the time, they were doing a lot of cheddar cutting and trading, but we stopped that and focused the operation on blending.

Cheese blending is a relatively simple process, but each blend is different and you do have to be careful not to overwork it and make the cheese too pasty – or underwork it and not get the flavours mixed in. So, there is an art to it.

Cheese blending (back to top)

The cheese is broken up into crumbs, and the flavour is poured in and mixed. When ready, it is compressed through a pipe and into an expansion chamber, which – as the name suggests – allows the cheese to expand, much like a sponge does after it has been squeezed. Then, it’s put into wheels, cut into portions and put through a waxing tank.

Our top product is Afterburn – cheddar blended with jalapeño peppers, red chillies, red and green bell peppers and a touch of garlic. As the name suggests, it has quite a fiery kick.

Our other cheddars include Cracked Black Pepper and Garlic; Farmhouse Cider & Apple; Chip Shop Curry; Indian Lime Pickle; and Moroccan Fruits. We also do a Wensleydale with Cranberries.

Soon after taking over, we moved the business into a barn conversion and bought in some retail-friendly kit, enabling us to expand the customer base outside a 30-mile radius.

As a family – Matthew’s wife Gemma worked on the admin – we embarked on a programme of visiting wholesalers and retailers in the south-west, which has proved quite successful. However, we were buying our base cheddar from wherever we could, which meant the quality wasn’t always consistent.

Trading deal (back to top)

To overcome this, we struck up a trading deal with Wyke Farms that remains to this day. They provide us with a regular supply of high quality cheese, and in return we make blended products they sell for export. Almost two-thirds of our output, while still carrying the Windyridge brand, now goes through them.

We soon outgrew the converted barn – in fact, we bought new equipment that we simply couldn’t fit into the place, so last October we moved into this unit here in Wincanton. It just so happens that Wyke Farms’s packing site is literally across the road from us, so it was ideal.

The place needed a lot of work. We put new flooring in, office space, changing rooms and a staff canteen area – we’ve spent at least £250,000 on upgrading the site alone. And we’ve probably spent the same amount on new equipment. The new wax line, for example, cost us £100,000, and we paid £50,000 for a new extruder.

Personal

PERSONAL

NAME: Melvin Glynn

AGE: 61

DOMESTICS: Married, with one son (Matthew) and a granddaughter.

OUTSIDE WORK: Matthew and I are rugby fans, and Exeter Chiefs are our team. I also like to paint using oils and watercolours.

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: I would say landing the Guinness deal is a huge achievement for this little business. And to have done it twice, with two different food manufacturers, is quite something.

ADVICE TO YOUNGER SELF: Do it sooner. If you have an idea, and the ambition to follow it through, then just go out and do it. I worked for other people until the age of 50, but I should have started this firm 20 years earlier.

Now we have made the investment, we are in a position to take the business to the next level by going for the UK retail market. Currently, we are in about 400 Home Bargains stores, and a few local Co-ops, but the bulk of our sales go through wholesalers.

We often display our cheese at agricultural shows, and former Waitrose md Mark Price once came by, tasted our products, and said they were fantastic. He suggested they should be stocked in Waitrose, but I had to explain we weren’t ready.

BRC accreditation (back to top)

First, we have to secure our BRC [British Retail Consortium] accreditation. Thankfully, we have been given an audit date of September, so we don’t have to wait too long.

Turnover was £1.5M in 2016, and we expect to double that this year. It could even be much higher, as we have just signed a three-dear deal with Diageo to make a cheddar with a Guinness-flavoured recipe.

It was my idea to tie-up with Guinness while at Burts, and that deal nearly doubled their turnover in the first year – so the potential for us here is huge. I was also responsible for the Levi Roots deal at Burts, and while at Ilchester we did Marmite cheddar. Linking with big name brands presents a clear opportunity for smaller firms like us to grow.

We have set ourselves up to be innovative, and we are. We can develop products with any sort of liquid, or fruit, or savoury item. It really depends on what the customer is looking for.

New product development within the business is encouraged through brainstorming sessions. When an idea is agreed on, we will have weekly tasting panels, tweaking the recipes each time. We also regularly benchmark our existing products against competitors.

If we keep growing at our current rate. I’m certain that within the next decade, we’ll either have to move to a bigger building or have a second site. Either way, we’re ambitious and there are exciting times ahead.

 

Factory facts

LOCATION: The Blending House, Bennetts Field, Wincanton, Somerset. BA9 9DT

SIZE: 1,500m2

STAFF: 14

TURNOVER: £1.5M in 2016, £3M forecast for 2017.

MAIN PRODUCTS: Afterburn (jalapeño peppers, red chillies, red and green bell peppers); Cheddar Cheese with Cracked Black Pepper & Garlic, Bonfire (smoked cheese); Dartboard selection.

MAIN CUSTOMERS: Home Bargains, The Co-op and wholesalers. Around 65% of volume is exported through Wyke Farms.

NUMBER OF PRODUCTION LINES: Three.

TOTAL FACTORY OUTPUT: 180t in 2016, 500t forecast for 2017.

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