American chef Anthony Bourdain once wrote, “You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.” If that’s the case, then the most recent arrivals to Warwick Mill must be to cheese what the Bronte family are to literature.
Cows & Co Group is headed by Stuart McLennan, Mark Calendar, Pete Crouch and Maurice Walton. Between them they bring expertise in agri-food business, top level dairy farming, artisan cheese making and brand development. Stuart and dairy farmer Mark met several years ago but a conversation about how to add value to the milk price Mark received led them to explore the world of artisan cheese making.
This in turn led to a partnership with Appleby Creamery boss Maurice, with the creamery becoming part of the Cows & Co Group. Finally Pete, who with his branding and marketing agency Liquid Design, had successfully pitched for the company’s branding business, came on board, strengthening the marketing and development side of the business.
The Cows & Co Group now stretches into three main sections, food & drink, energy and consultation. The energy division is working in collaboration with Manco and has a reputation for a consultative approach to renewable energy solutions for large scale businesses.
In a style typical of the way they approach business and opportunities, they have also created a range of dried paper bedding suitable for the agricultural and equine industry. The consultation side of the business allows them to work with businesses that are looking for business and branding support but without being part of the Cows & Co brand.
It is, though, the food side of the business that they are best known for. The company specialises in handmade artisan cheeses and have won a number of awards. However their future plans lie not in the multiples but in building a discerning client base, including selling to upmarket hotels and restaurants across the country.
Their willingness to work with producers and source high quality products is already opening new doors. A new partnership with three small scale dairy farmers in Bewcastle has seen them negotiate a partial release for the farmers from their milk buying contract with the milk instead being sold to Cows & Co, at a higher price.
The milk will be used to make a Caerphilly-style cheese called Bewcastle which will have its showcase at the Houses of Parliament on Cumbria Day on December 6.
It is an innovative style of business that has undoubtedly saved three small scale farms. Future plans will see them open up an agri-food partnership in Russia, the launch of a new range of yoghurt drinks in China as well as a partnership with The Lakes Distillery to create hampers that bring together a selection of Cumbrian brands that eschew similar artisan qualities.