JASON Chesworth admits he is “blown away” by the response to Hunter Belle Dairy Co’s latest foray into the supermarket domain.
The family-owned business venture, located in Guernsey Street, Scone, unleashed its full cream milk into the Woolworths’ Hunter chain last week – with outstanding results.
Although the unhomogenised product was available locally at Kerv, Paddock to Pantry, Hunter Belle Cheese Cafe and Muswellbrook IGA in recent months, 21 “Woolies” stores – at Scone, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Aberglasslyn, Rutherford, Cessnock, Maitland, Green Hills, Raymond Terrace north, Raymond Terrace Centro, Glendale, Jesmond, Warabrook, Cardiff, Mayfield, Kotara, Charlestown, Mt Hutton, Newcastle west, Belmont and Swansea – have jumped on board to stock their shelves, too.
“It’s great, considering we just started up [here] in October, producing our own dairy products including cheese, yoghurt, butter and milk,” Mr Chesworth said.
“We began slowly, manufacturing between 1000 and 1200 litres [of milk] a week.
“But, we went from that to 10,000 virtually overnight, thanks to Woolworths.
“It was certainly a good test for us; we thought maybe 4000 to 5000 litres,” he added with a laugh.
“Luckily, we already had a relationship with Woolies, via our range of cheese.
“That’s been well-received by consumers.
“So, we knew the milk would be, too.
“However, the overall support from the [Hunter] community was still overwhelming.
“We just wanted to give people another option – and a local alternative.
“I feel sorry for those residents at Salamander Bay, Nelson Bay, Medowie, Toronto and Morisset, who missed out.
“We’ve been contacted by their respective [Woolworths] outlets and, hopefully, we can help them out over the next couple of weeks.
“The demand’s gone crazy.”
Until recently, their range of cheese had been made in a small factory in Muswellbrook under the banner of Hunter Belle Cheese, headed by husband and wife duo Geoff and Tania Chesworth.
Passing on the reins to son Jason and wife Annie, previously of Hunter Belle Cheddar, enabled the expansion into the new factory and creation of Hunter Belle Dairy Co.
Mr Chesworth said a funding grant allowed the family to further expand, creating a boost for jobs in the area.
“The key focus [for us] is local,” he explained.
“We certainly want to employ more people.
“And, the $200,958 grant, from NSW Government-backed, private-sector led Jobs for NSW, allowed the business to hire a further eight employees.”
The positive news from the Woolworths partnership last week also lifted the spirits of the Chesworths, who were rocked by a brazen break-in at the Hunter Belle Cheese Café in June.
Social media went into meltdown after photos emerged of a thief stealing the cash takings, and staff wages, from the premises.
“The robbery flattened us all,” Mr Chesworth said.
“We pride ourselves on being a local business supporting local producers, providing local jobs and giving generously to our local community and charities.
“But, the support we’ve received from everyone has really been fantastic.
“So, for that, we say thank you.”