Article by Nicholas Rider courtesy of Convenience World Magazine.

Bannister Downs Dairy in Western Australia’s south-west has taken out the People’s Choice Award for its Farm Fresh Milk at the 2022 Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

The product from the 100% Western Australia owned and operated business is available in its local market, ranged at Coles, Woolworths and independent retailers throughout the state, and said to be used at more than 350 cafes.

Bannister Downs co-operator Sue Daubney says the win is a huge milestone for the company – a joint venture partnership between herself, her husband Mat, and Hancock Prospecting Executive Chair Gina Rinehart – after a challenging few years navigating the impact of the pandemic. It’s also recognition for her team’s dedication to producing a premium product in a sustainable manner, she adds.

“It’s testament to our team and to our herd – ‘our girls’ – and the ongoing investment in our product,” she says.

“We’ve gone from a team of three when we started out in 2005, to now around 56, with the invaluable assistance of a partner we trust and who shares our values and wants to see this iconic Western Australian business perform on the world stage.

“We’ve always set out to achieve excellence, and this award is evidence that, as a small business, we’re well on our way to achieving that.”

Ms Rinehart says she shares her partners’ excitement about taking out “this wonderful award” and looks forward to seeing the company continue to thrive.

“It’s very exciting to hear of the win for our fresh milk in the prestigious 2022 AGDA People’s Choice Award – a most deserved recognition for the efforts of the hard-working team and a great reward for their commitment and dedication to taking care of everything, from the paddock through to deliveries, and particularly in these challenging times since early 2020,” she says. “I’m very proud of Bannister Downs winning this best in Australia accolade.”

Baristas, according to Ms Daubney, need milk that matches the quality of the coffee beans.

“Milk is a natural product with lots of variables, so you want to choose one that’s reliable and consistently delivers on taste, texture and functionality for stand-out coffee,” she says.

“We pasteurise our milk for longer and at a lower temperature [than standard practices] because we believe this produces the best quality, fresh milk and the ultimate ‘micro foam’ in barista-made coffees. We only heat our fresh milk to a maximum of 67 degrees. Therefore, the process is gentle on the proteins and enzymes that we believe enrich our smooth, full-flavoured milk and offer the best nutritional properties.

“All this results in better tasting, creamier, pure Bannister Downs milk, which has a superior frothing performance for the fussy coffee barista.”

In the cafe space, Ms Daubney notes a desire to reduce waste and a commitment to sustainability.

“Our milk comes in the ‘world’s most sustainable pouch’ as part of our commitment to being world leaders in ethical dairy, with minimal environmental impact,” she says.

“This innovative and eco-friendly pouch packaging allows us to bring fresher flavoured products to customers in lightweight, flexible and easy-to-store pouches that have a low carbon footprint due to the minimum use of raw materials and energy in their manufacturing process. The pouches are made from 35% crushed limestone to achieve a reduced plastic content, and are unique to us in Australia.

“Once empty, our pouch packaging takes up minimum space before being recycled, and can be burnt safely or returned to landfill, as it will break down naturally over time.”

Ms Daubney acknowledges that increased costs and difficulty finding staff are affecting the cafe industry.

“In general, [owners/operators] are feeling very tired, as many … have been holding the fort for a long time now due to both labour shortages and then managing their way through Covid,” she says.

She points out that “the industry has really copped the brunt of Covid in many respects”, citing mandate managing, heightened Covid requirements, and increased costs, including those of the scarce labour supply. Cafes “will need nurturing while they recover”, she adds.

“We’ve committed to hold our current wholesale price for the next six months to help our customers,” Ms Daubney says.

Bannister Downs is renewing plans to expand into overseas markets, with Asia a particular focus, notes Ms Daubney – “now that we’re back on course” after these plans were disrupted by the pandemic in early 2020.

“We’re aiming to establish new markets in Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong, which could treble our production of milk, and we’re well positioned to take this growth in our stride,” she says.

This article is published in the July issue of Convenience World.