A Bideford-based dairy company is celebrating a successful first year despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millbrook Dairy Company was founded last year by dairy experts David Evans and Kevin Beer and has grown from strength to strength in that time, securing contracts in the UK and abroad and launching new product ranges.

It reported an inaugural annual turnover of £15.5million, which was five times more than its initial expectations.

The company supplies a range of British and Irish cheese and butter to customers in the United Kingdom as well as the USA, China, Canada and South America.

The past year has also seen Millbrook develop and launch its own-label product range, which is being specifically targeted to meet an increase in demand for British products.

The business has sold over 10,000 tonnes of cheese since its launch last year, exceeding forecast tonnage by 300 per cent.

It has also maintained its operations during the coronavirus crisis. While one of the company’s seven staff was furloughed at the beginning of the pandemic, they have now been brought back to work to help meet the increased demand.

Kevin said: “David and I have worked in the dairy industry all our lives and it’s great to be able to bring our experience to the fore in our own business.

“The food and drink industry is already geared towards strict hygiene standards and, in some ways, has seen a smoother transition into the ‘new normal’ since restrictions began to lift, than some sectors.

“No one could predict the effects of the virus initially and throughout that time.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve been finalising a new in-house line of our own cheeses along with a host of new ideas and plans for the next twelve months – we are looking to forge a new future combining growth and innovation.”

The business has been supported with a £1.6million funding package from Lloyds Bank.

Jon Cockbain, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “UK dairy exports have been growing steadily over the past decade and Millbrook Dairy Company has capitalised on this trend to establish a highly successful business from the offset.

“It’s been encouraging to see the business meet and exceed its maiden growth targets in what’s been a very difficult time and we look forward to continuing to support the dairy in the next phase of its development and beyond.

“Lloyds Bank is proud to help ambitious and pioneering start-up firms like Millbrook Dairy Company, both in the South West and across the UK, surpass their growth targets and deliver innovation and excellent standards as they prosper in the new normal.”