First Milk and Milk Link have agreed for Arla Foods to become a shareholder in Westbury Dairies, the co-operatives’ skimmed milk powder and bulk butter venture.

The deal consists of First Milk and Milk Link agreeing to sell a minority share in the company to Arla. Financial details were not disclosed.

“Westbury Dairies will remain strategically important for both Milk Link and First Milk and it will continue to provide long term balancing requirements for both businesses, along with Arla in line with their strategic requirements,” a statement said today (14 September). “The addition of Arla to the joint venture will reduce the share of the costs borne by the original shareholders, Milk Link and First Milk, and provide a more economic balancing solution for all three businesses.”

The statement said that, looking forward, all three parties will work to explore ways to develop further the potential of the Westbury site to complement its existing skimmed milk powder and bulk butter production capabilities.

A Westbury Dairies spokesperson said: “Arla becoming a shareholder, we believe, is a positive development for Westbury Dairies Ltd, the site and the wider British dairy industry. Westbury undertakes a very valuable role as the country’s major milk balancing facility. At certain times of the year, such as the Spring flush, the facility is very busy but at other times activity is minimal resulting in the site’s overall operational costs per unit being high and today’s announcement of our partnership with Arla we believe will help address this.”

Peter Lauritzen, CEO of Arla’s UK arm, added: “Today’s announcement marks the next strategic step for Arla in the UK. This joint venture with Milk Link and First Milk in Westbury Dairies will give us access to the high quality balancing facilities which we require, following the closure of our Northallerton creamery.”