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Monday, 24 November 2014

Dalston's Nestle factory - the home of the cappuccino in a sachet

Ask your average man on the street to name the home of cappuccino and Dalston probably wouldn’t be his answer.

Nestle factory photo
Twenty million sachets of drinks, including the cappuccino brand, are produced at Dalston every week

But while the village near Carlisle is a long way from Italy, enough cups of the drink are created there to stake a strong claim for that crown.

It is a title Nestle executives believe their Dalston factory richly deserves.

After all, a staggering 20 million sachets of drinks are produced there every week.

And they are poured into cups all over the world with the Cumbrian creations sold in 26 countries – 23 in Europe, as well as Canada, Chile and Uruguay.

The facts may surprise many with many of those living on the plant’s doorstep not realising the scale of the work that goes on there.

Yet it is one of north Cumbria’s biggest employers with a 325-strong workforce on a 24/7 operation to meet massive demand.

Nescafe’s cappuccino brand is its major product and the basis of the factory’s current success – one its manager, David Anderson, is sure can be built on.

He said: “There’s a strong focus on building capability for the future.

“Given the nature of Nestle, we have markets and international opportunities.”

As well as the cappuccino brand – which has a market share of between 83 and 84 per cent – drinks made at Dalston also include Coffeemate and the Aero hot chocolate drink.

All the milk that is freeze-dried to create the products is sourced from local farmers – meaning Nestle’s boost to the community reaches far beyond only those who work there.

They feed the factory’s demands with a massive 900,000 litres of milk every week.

Local contractors are also used to carry out work on the site.

Adapting to meet changing pressures on production has been one of the key factors of success in Nestle’s near 50 years at Dalston.

Mr Anderson, who took charge there two-and-a-half years ago after more than four years with the company in Sweden, said: “We have developed over the years to produce the amount of products that we do.

“Next year is our 50th anniversary on this site. As we have gone through those 50 years, one of the key things has been to build up the skills and depth needed on the site. We run strong training programmes and an apprenticeship scheme. Developing technical know-how and capability on the site is important.”

Sometimes though, expertise needed at the factory has to be brought in from further afield – sometimes other parts of the world.

“One of the challenges we have in this area is attracting new talent in,” Mr Anderson added.

“This is something that has meant we have had to sometimes go further afield outside Cumbria to attract some of the skills we have needed to progress.

“We try to get the message out that this is a nice area to live. We try to attract talent into Cumbria.”

Workforce traffic is not, however, one way only. Skills honed in Dalston have also been called on in other parts of the world.

That should be of little surprise given Nestle’s long connection with north Cumbria, stretching back to 1928.

Sited on Currock Road where The Plumb Centre now stands, it made dried milk.

Production at Dalston started in 1962, where staff first made sweetened condensed milk.

The factory in Carlisle closed in 1974 and operations became concentrated on the Dalston operation.

A blending plant for cappuccino was installed there 1996 and staff’s work on that front has forged ahead from there. About 60 per cent of all that is made there – going through a process of milk being freeze-dried before ingredients are added to it to make the drinks – is now exported across the world.

Staff say they work to the ethos of driving “continuous excellence” in everything they do with a mindset of creating zero-waste.

Yet, despite the scale of work that goes on in the factory – with strings of busy production lines and boxes of drinks whizzing along them – many do not realise what goes on there.

“It’s quite surprising, but not many people realise what we do,” Mr Anderson admitted. “We’ve been here 50 years and continue to invest in the business. We are the main site of our kind in Europe. We’re continually looking to improve the product. Innovation is key to the business. We have a strong team.”

As part of some awareness-raising, members of Dalston parish council have visited the factory as part of staff’s community work.

That also includes being the main sponsor of Dalston Show for the past 35 years, as well as backing Nestle’s national efforts to help a chosen cause every year.

This year, they are raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society with fundraisers including a black tie ball to be held next Saturday.

The Cappuccino Ball will be held at Garden at Eden, Eden Golf Club, featuring a red carpet arrival, champagne drinks reception, four-course gourmet dinner, entertainment throughout the evening and an auction. Nestle’s by Eastriggs-based firm M&S Engineering is sponsoring the firm, along with and co-sponsors by J&S Wilkinson, Story Construction and Carlisle Window Systems

Other community work carried out by Nestle staff includes working closely with their neighbours, Caldew School.

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