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Manufacturer Up Close: Carron Lodge

Carron Lodge is a Preston-based manufacturer and distributor of cheese as well as a fine food wholesaler serving a variety of sectors including independent retail, foodservice, and wholesale trade.

Originating as a dairy in the 1900s, it became an incorporated business in 1996, and today produces 350 tonnes of cheese annually.

In this manufacturer close up, we speak to Ben Martin, technical manager at Carron Lodge, on how the company’s cheese always makes the cut.

Tell us about Carron Lodge

Our story started in 1904, when Duillia Rhodes, a great aunt of our founder Adrian, started making cheese on the family farm.

She married into another dairy family and left the farm, but in 1988, Adrian revived her recipes and began trading as ‘Rhodes Cheese’.

The business grew at an impressive rate, expanding the farm to increase the capacity of its cattle herd in 2003, and acquiring Park View Foods of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, in 2009 to cover East Anglia and the South East.

In addition to our Preston head office and farm, we have depots in Gloucester, Lincolnshire, and Greenford near London, which allow us to deliver our products across the entire UK.

We remain a family business, with Adrian the managing director, and his son, Tom, working on both the day-to-day and development of the business as operations manager.

What products are in your range?

We produce more than 40 varieties of cheese, with many going onto win major industry awards.

Popular products include our Lancashire Blue, Inglewhite Buffalo Cheese, and an innovative Charcoal Briquette, which has a distinctive black colour.

But we don’t just do cheese – on the wholesale side of the business, we offer fine foods including olives, salads, hummus dips, charcuterie, and liquid egg, which is proving extremely popular in the hospitality sector.

Carron Lodge also produces special cheese celebration cakes, which unlike dessert cheesecakes are made entirely of cheese, for large-scale events including weddings and conferences.

We’ve also made the Dambuster, a cheese created for a special Dambusters’ dinner commemorating the use of the ‘bouncing bomb’ in the World War Two.

To mark the bomb’s 75th anniversary in 2018, the cheese was presented to squadron leader George Leonard “Johnny” Johnson MBE, who said: “I’m not going to drop this, it’s far too precious!”

What makes you stand out from the competition?

We’ve won multiple international cheese awards year on year, and 2018 was no different.

Our Inglewhite Buffalo, made from the milk of our own water buffalo, won super gold at the World Cheese Awards, and our Smoked Camembert also earned gold for best smoked cheese at the International Cheese Awards .

All the cows’ milk in our cheese comes from our own 350 strong herd of cattle, with goat and sheep milk also coming from a local Preston-based supplier.

This allows us to have a greater control over our ingredients, and ensure only the best dairy is used in our cheese.

And being both a manufacturer and wholesaler, we have a unique insight into both industries and know what is required to keep our customers happy.

What are Carron Lodge’s next steps?

A big area of interest for us is online ordering. We have had an online order system in place for the past two years, when few in the market were offering it, but it’s now becoming very popular.

We’re also taking steps to become more sustainable by using our own on-site water treatment plant, and are looking into ethical product packaging to reduce waste.

Our London depot has moved to Greenford, which has taken off really well. The location gives us better coverage of the Greater London, Kent, and South East, and the chance to serve more customers in those areas.

How does Erudus help the business?

Erudus is an excellent asset for Carron Lodge, as historically we were printing out specifications and sending them to customers.

The online platform, with all of our product data available on it, takes away the need to spend time sourcing information and transferring it into a spread sheet.

We’re also looking forward to utilising Erudus with our online ordering, which will give customers the option to look up nutritional and allergen information in real time as they purchase.