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Taste of success for County Durham dairy

A North East dairy has the best butter in the UK, according to a consumer organisation.


Acorn Dairy creates its own products from its low-carbon, organic farm in Archdeacon Newton, near Darlington.


The family business, run by directors Caroline Bell and her brother Graham Tweddle, has been farming since 1928 and converted to organic status in 1998.


Its own brand butter was recently named the ‘Best Dairy Butter’ option in the UK by Ethical Consumer Magazine, a publication which ranks consumer products based on factors including environmental impact, animals, politics, product sustainability and company ethos.


Caroline said: “The butter brand range reviewed was significant in scale and included smaller producers such as ourselves, international brands and supermarket own-branded dairy butter and plant-based spreads.


“I have subscribed to Ethical Consumer Magazine for many years and was delighted when I saw they had reviewed butter and that Acorn Dairy was the top dairy brand. For our butter to receive a higher ethical ranking than so many processed plant spreads makes us very proud, especially as our marketing budget is miniscule compared to some of the other big boys!”


The dairy was ranked 4th out of a total of 50 butters, plant spreads and margarines, a result Caroline attributes to the firm’s commitment to organic standards on its farms in Yorkshire and Durham, and getting food from field to fridge in the best way possible for the environment, land and animals.


She added: “It is no surprise that if we feed the best, organic forage with clover & herbs to our Dairy Shorthorns, the cream in their milk will churn to fantastic butter.


“The taste difference is there in the milk and cream too.


“In 2020 ECM listed us as their best dairy brand for fresh milk. This was wonderful enough but for our butter to be listed in its own right is fabulous.”


Caroline and Graham are always looking for new ways to reduce the business’ footprint & improve their sustainable credentials. They have recently stopped using greaseproof paper and sellotape for butter wrapping in favour of a 100 per cent home compostable packaging.


Graham added: “The hand-wrapped packages certainly looked artisan but, with thousands of rolls being packed each week, it was becoming a mission for our team, and we knew we could improve on the old packaging.


“In conjunction with a company in Harrogate we developed a machine to pack the butter neatly in a home compostable wrap.


“Our customers will still receive their butter in Acorn Dairy signature rolls, rather than blocks, and it will still be made in our butter churn from only two ingredients: organic cream from our Dairy Shorthorns and a dash of salt.


“It is still cut with a cheese wire and then placed on the wrapper, and with some clever folding, the compostable wrap encompasses the butter roll and gives an air-tight seal.

“The wrap will simply go in with customers vegetable or garden waste and compost down with access to moisture & air, ultimately becoming soil after passing through a friendly worm!”


The ranking is the latest highlight for the northern, organic dairy, which last year won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for sustainable development.


Caroline said: “For our very small company to be picked out, just nine months after our Queen’s Award is a real boost as it has been, and remains, a challenging time to be a food producer.


“At a time when everyone is hoping to reduce their individual footprint, it is wonderful to be recommended by ethical and sustainable bodies.”

Caroline Bell

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