UK dairy cooperative Dale Farm is investing £70m ($87.4m) in expanding Cheddar cheese processing operations in Northern Ireland.

The business, based in the province, is to expand its cheese facility at Dunmanbridge, County Tyrone..

The initiative will increase the site’s cheese and whey protein concentrate and producing capacity by 20,000 tonnes per year, enabling 85,000 tonnes capacity per year. 21 new jobs will be added to the site.

Work is already underway and the expanded operation is expected to go live in February 2025.

The move will see Dale Farm integrate new technologies and equipment at the site and, it suggested, increase its sustainability credentials.

The company will improve and replace existing site-wide services and utilities, introduce a new high-speed automated cheese-slicing line, increase its warehouse capcity and invest in NPD.

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Nick Whelan, group chief executive, said the investment will position Dale Farm as a leading European Cheddar cheese player.

“Dale Farm has built a strong reputation as a leader in Cheddar production, and thanks to our reputation for quality, sustainability and consistency, we are seeing strong customer growth in the category,” he said.

“We are already exporting to 40 countries, and with this investment, we want to build on that momentum and future-proof our operation at Dunmanbridge for decades to come.”

Whelan added: “We have been granted a patent for Cheddar produced at the site and are on-boarding new technologies and digital transformation.”

The company said that the investment comes following Dale Farm enjoying “successive years of impressive growth” across the UK, Europe and beyond. It already exports to 40 countries worldwide.

According to the company, the expansion “will mark one of the largest ever single investments by a Northern Ireland agri-food company”.

The facility employs 345 people and sources milk from 760 local farms.

Dale Farms produces milk, cheese, butter, ice lollies and ice cream. It’s portfolio includes brands such as Dale Farm, Dromona and Mullin’s. It has eight production facilities in the UK.