Meet the Tesco dairy buying manager
We spoke to our dairy buying manager David Chamberlain to find out more about his role and how he works with British farmers, cheese makers and suppliers to ensure Tesco cheese is of the highest quality.
What does your job as a dairy buying manager involve?
I work across the whole of the dairy buying department and am also personally responsible for cheese buying for all Tesco stores. I work closely with my team to develop new dairy products, as well as buying ongoing products. Together with our suppliers we agree product ranges and prices, as well as planning packaging and how products can be best displayed in-store.
How do you choose cheese products to sell in store?
We buy cheese directly from cheese makers. Choosing the makers is based on a range of different criteria, including where the farm that supplies the milk is based. For example, all our own-label standard Cheddar is British, so we first find cheeses made in Britain and then make decisions based on quality and finally pricing.
How many cheese producers do you work with?
We work closely with a large number of cheese producers, from the big creameries to the smallest local artisan ones who are making cheese by hand for our Finest* range.
How does Tesco ensure British dairy farmers get a fair deal?
Our own-label standard Cheddar cheese is made with 100% British milk from British cows and farms. This prevents any cheaper alternative imports coming in and affecting the market and British farmers. All dairy farmers are part of our Tesco Sustainable Dairy Group, which means Tesco pays above market rate for milk, while delivering the highest-quality milk for customers.
What affects cheese production?
Cheese tends to be made when there is a surplus of milk. When too much milk has been produced for the liquid milk market, the surplus is used for making more cheese. Likewise, when milk production is reduced less cheese is made. Cheese production is seasonal in Britain as less milk is produced when it’s colder. Then, when the sun comes out, the grass is growing, cows produce more milk and you get a bit of a spring flush. More milk production means more cheese as a result.
How can you be sure that all the milk used in your Tesco brand Cheddar is British?
All our cheese producers deal with specific milk farmers and there is traceability back to the farm. We know which dairy farm the milk has come from and which creamery it’s made in. Our customers expect that not only would their milk be 100% British, but usually local too, so for example, there is Scottish milk in our Scottish stores, Welsh milk in our Welsh stores and so on.
You’ve recently introduced a low-salt cheese. Why did it take so long?
We’ve been offering great-tasting cheese with reduced levels of fat for over a decade, but until recently have not been able to find a reduced-salt cheese that would meet the high standards of flavour and texture that both we and our customers expect. Our reduced-salt mild Cheddar has been developed over several years by one of the UK's top dairy producers. We are now looking at a selection of cheeses that offer both reduced salt and reduced fat and hope to be able to offer something in store in the coming months.
What can customers expect in store in the dairy section?
We’ve made some exciting changes to improve the shopping experience for customers. We’ve given more space to the dairy items that need it, which means it’s easier to find products at busy times such as weekends. We’ve also grouped similar products together. For example, we’ve put our Free From and Dairy Alternatives ranges next to each other. Customers will also see a wider cheese entertaining range, with ideas and inspiration on how to use cheese at home when you have friends over, and alternative suggestions to use on a cheese board.
Another thing we have introduced an adult snacking cheese range. We’ve been doing cheese snacks for young people for years, but we know this is something that adults would also like to have for their lunch boxes.
And we have a new seasonal aisle area to help customers find everything in one place, such as when the children go back to school or in the run up to Christmas.
These changes will all help make it easier for customers to shop and to plan meals. The new changes are in 100 stores and will be rolled out across more stores over the coming months.