Dairy Farm Company, traditional products plus expansion both in Hong Kong and elsewhere
Paul Mark Onslow kindly sent me a manuscript of The Hongkong Land Company’s 90th Anniversary 1889-1979. This contains information about a number of Hong Kong companies. Here I am incorporating a subsidiary article about the Dairy Farm company written by Frena Bloomfield.
I do not know exactly when the article was first published but I think around 1979
HF: I have retyped the article to increase legibility and aid searches on the site.
Please note the images shown here do not come from the original article.
Thanks to SCT for proofreading the retyped copy of the original article.
Dairy Farm. The pastoral name evokes an image of contented cows wandering over green meadows and the splash of creamy fresh milk against the side of a bucket. And in the early days of Dairy Farm, more than ninety years ago in Pokfulam, that image was reality.
Today, however, apart from a herd of 500 cows kept for fresh milk fans in Hong Kong, Dairy Farm has diversified into a multi-national range of goods and services. Most of them have little to do with cows, although almost all of them are directly or indirectly connected with foodstuffs. The Dairy Farm Group of Companies, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hongkong Land since 1972, is involved with pursuits as varied as feeding 3,000 hungry oilmen in the middle of the Sumatran jungle, offering a safe summer retreat for a mink coat or antique Persian carpet, baking bread, selling toothbrushes, and making ice by the ton, as well as dealing in the traditional ice cream and milk product lines.
The popularity of the Company’s traditional product, however, is on the rise. To meet this need, Dairy Farm concluded an agreement with the People’s Republic of China in February to collect 500 gallons of fresh milk daily from Po-an Kwungming Farm in Kwantung Province.
Most of this diversification has taken place in the last decade and “the next ten should bring consolidation in these new areas of development, rather than any radical new departures,” according to Managing Director Phil Oram.
Dairy Farm now operates in eleven countries in South East Asia and Australasia, from Thailand through Hong Kong to Brunei and Guam, and has heavy and profitable investment in fruit and nut farming in South Australia. Although 63 per cent of sales are still centred in Hong Kong – Dairy Farm being very much a Hong Kong company – there is an increasing interest in overseas ventures which will certainly continue.
One of the more likely places the average consumer comes across Dairy Farm is on air flights around the region. Dairy Farm caters for the flights of a large number of operators including Japan Airlines, Pan Am and Air India. “This is a very specialised area of supply,” stresses Mr Oram, “as strict hygiene, speedy service and top quality food are all equally important.” The Group has an impressive HK$35 million kitchen at Kai Tak airport, designed to ensure compete cleanliness in the handling of food (even the air is electronically filtered) destined for departing flights. Some 36,000 meals can be prepared here every 24 hours and this capacity can eventually be upped to 55,000, according to Mr Oram. Flight kitchens of smaller size but of equivalent standard have also been set up in Bangkok, Jakarta, Guam and Brunei. The company even caters out of Saipan, a microscopic island in, yes, Micronesia.
But one need not leave Hong Kong to get a taste of Dairy Farm’s catering service. Any hungry punter at the Happy Valley Race Course has sampled Dairy Farm fare, as have numerous workers in its twenty managed factory canteens. Dairy Farm also provides service to hospitals and schools throughout the region. A snack at the Dog Track in Guam, a nibble while watching trotting races in Western Australia, or something to munch while awaiting a plane in Saipan, are all supplied by Dairy Farm.
And the name “Dairy Farm” is found off the beaten track as well. This pioneering outfit runs an entire jungle township in Sumatra, from the post office to laundry, as well as a canteen. The Dairy Farm staff of 500 works to keep some 3,000 oilmen happy and well-fed under rough jungle conditions. Catering for mining camps is an expanding business, according to Mr Oram, and the Group is currently catering in Malaysia, Indonesia and Western Australia.
Any steamy summer day in Hong Kong brings out the best known of Dairy Farm’s products: ice cream. Made in Hong Kong at the factory in Kwun Tong, the ice cream is based on milk products from Australia and New Zealand. Another smash hit, says Mr Oram, is the Dairy Farm Creamery in Causeway Bay with its amazing range of more than 30 ice cream and milk shake flavours, including mango and English toffee. Crowded out most days and evenings, the Causeway Bay Creamery, the first of five now open, went into business late last year.
One of Dairy Farm’s big ventures does not involve the use of milk products at all. The Group has mushroomed in the highly profitable direct retailing area through Dairy Lane and Welcome supermarkets and Manning Dispensary chemist/toy shops in Hong Kong, as well as Fitzpatrick’s in Singapore and Malaysia. The Australian retailing division operates duty free stores in four cities. With more than twenty five supermarkets in Hong Kong, nine in Singapore and Malaysia, plus the chain of chemist/toy shops, the Group has reaped outstanding success. So much so that Mr Oram sees direct retailing as possibly the area of greatest future potential. “The most important factor for successful supermarketing is having the necessary backup,” he cautions. “Without vast warehousing and purchasing capacity with specialised management, you can’t run a successful supermarket chain and maintain competitive prices.”
And cold storage space is another big area of expansion for the group. Sounds boring? Not when one realizes that, for example, the Shek Pai Wan Dairy Farm Store has more than one million cubic feet of cold storage space and is bulging with everything from priceless fur coats and antique paintings to Swiss sausages and fresh lobsters.
Every commodity requires different conditions and temperatures, so the storage plant is staffed by experts who keep carrots from freezing and mink coats from shedding. Shek Pai Wan in Aberdeen also has 500 feet of waterfront which permit mechanised efficient cargo and ice handling for the South China Sea fishing fleets.
Dairy Farm takes pride in its expanding cold front. This same Shek Pai Wan plant can produce tube ice – 600 metric tonnes a day – and has a storage capacity of 900 metric tonnes. The new Castle Peak plant produces 170 tonnes per day. The advantages of tube ice, compared with traditional blocks, is that it can be handled entirely by machine and thus easily stored and delivered. Customers include Hong Kong’s fishing fleets, leading hotels and restaurants, as well as aircraft and domestic caterers. “We’re now constructing a new tube ice plant in Yau Tong Bay in the New Territories which will give us complete coverage of the fishing fleet centres,” says Mr Oram, “so we can offer ice supplies and cold storage to most of the fishermen from both Hong Kong and China operating in these waters.”
Warehousing is yet another operation that has been given a considerable boost by the acquisition of 200,000 square feet of new warehouse space at Shatin which is now the central distribution point for the group in Hong Kong. “We have a fully mechanised single level warehouse there,” says Mr Oram, “it’s unique in Hong Kong – and is probably the largest of its kind in the region.” An additional new cold store at Shatin alongside the central warehouse will be ready in June. Its half million cubic foot capacity will be used entirely within the group as the base for its further planned inroads into supermarkets and food retail outlets, particularly in the rapidly developing new towns in the New Territories.
From then on, it will be all systems go for Dairy Farm on the supermarket front. According to Mr Oram, “1980 will be a time to build on the enormous foundation laid in recent years which today places Dairy Farm on the brink of a new era of expansion.”
This article was first posted on 20th November 2022.
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