Arran Dairies celebrates 40 years in business

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Sub-heading: Fouth generation means it’s a real family affair

One of the oldest family firms on the island, Arran Dairies, is celebrating 40 years in business.

It was set up in 1978 by Russell Dobson and his wife Sheila and is now in its fourth generation of family members. But the Dobson family tradition on Arran goes back a whole lot farther as the family first began farming at West Knowe in Brodick in 1937.

The firm is now run by Alastair Dobson and the company recently held a birthday lunch at the Auchrannie to celebrate the milestone with their employees and thank  customers, suppliers and supporters over the years.

Alastair told the lunch: ‘I am extremely proud to be currently leading Arran Dairies, especially as we are now into our 4th generation of family members now that I see Susan and my children and Russell and Sheila’s grandchildren joining the business – Matthew in production and management, Hannah about to return to support me with Taste of Arran and Ross who comes in to help out when he can.

‘My Papa Dobson came to Arran from Ireland via Lanarkshire in the 1930s to start farming at West Knowe Farm where I still stay. We have always sold produce of milk and potatoes etc to businesses, in Brodick initially then when my mum and dad started Arran Dairies, to the rest of the island.

‘Very quickly they realised there was an opportunity to develop the range of products we offered our customers as they noticed the rise in the demand for frozen food. A quick discussion with the then main supplier to the island, Caterfrost based in Glasgow, saw a secondary wholesale deal done and Arran Dairies food division was started, quickly moving into chilled foods to fill demand as trends changed.

‘Around 30 years ago Caterfrost sold to the Brakes Group and a new deal was done. The size of the Brakes organisation and their portfolio helped us to develop even more business and a number of years ago we developed a full grocery service with ambient goods and non-food items.

‘I thank them from the bottom of my heart. Their vision to start Arran Dairies in 1978 and their hard work over the formative years of the business and over the rollercoaster that every business faces, prepared a fantastic platform for me when I took over about 20 years ago.

‘My wife Susan also needs special mention, if she had not been there to give me and our children the fantastic support she did for years and still does now, when I was working long hours both at home and away developing the business, there would be no way Arran Dairies and Taste of Arran could have grow as they have.

‘Arran Dairies would be nothing without our small, diligent and fantastic team. Every day they make sure we give you the best service possible. They always look at ways of improving what we do whether it be deliveries, our management of your account or making ice cream. I am eternally grateful for all they do and I really hope you agree they deliver.

‘Four years ago, due to changes and customer trends and extreme low prices due to global issues within the dairying industry we decided to stop processing liquid milk and concentrate on our ice cream manufacture and to give us more time to look after our valued customers on Arran. This was a tough decision to make but has proven the correct one.

‘Always listening to what our customers want and understanding their needs, and to grow our core business, we decided we needed to bring in specialist supplies of some categories. We now use the purchasing and culinary services of The Full Range and have to date introduced, fruit and Veg through a partnership with Mark Murphy , sometimes having up to 5 vans on the island , we introduced a wider range of non-food items through Bunzle and Lockharts and a fish offering through M&J Seafood while continuing to grow our business with Brakes to supply your core products.

‘Arran Dairies would like to continue to develop our services to you and increase purchasing solutions for all your needs potentially including utilities, alcohol and more of the non-food options.

‘We will also be developing our ice cream sales across the UK and into exports. While doing this we will continue to look at new opportunities to support our Arran customers to get best quality and service perhaps utilities and alcohol being key categories.

‘As always we will always be looking at more green and sustainable options for us and our customers and are already engaged with reduction of single use plastics and introducing more sustainable product options for our customers.

‘We will develop and commit to our plan to deliver our ambitions, to be a successful, sustainable, profitable Arran company, serving our customers to the best of our ability, providing meaningful employment and career development for our people and play our part helping Arran to be an exciting place to live and work.’

Alastair centre back with his mum and dad Russell and Sheila Dobson, Sylvia Allison the current staff at Arran Dairies. 01_B22dairy

Alastair delivers his birthday speech at the lunch. 01_B22dairy02

Sheila Gilmore recites a witty Ode to Arran at the lunch. 01_B22dairy03