Structure of UK Milk Processors

Published 22 February 17

Structure of UK Milk Processors

Information on the number and size of enterprises buying ex-farm milk and those producing dairy products in the United Kingdom are given in this section.

Please note: The data is sourced from Defra's monthly surveys on utilisation of milk by dairies and shows the size distribution of UK dairy companies by volume of milk processed. Some smaller companies do not participate in these surveys and therefore it must be stressed that these tables give an indication of the size distribution of dairy companies in the UK but they underestimate the number and contribution of smaller manufacturers and therefore do not present a complete picture of the milk processing sector. It is updated every 3 years.

UK Distribution of Dairy Companies

2015 UK Distribution of Dairy Companies by Volume of Milk Processed
  Companies Processing Milk Volume of Annual Milk Intake
Size Band ('000 tonnes per year) Number % of Total Thousand Tonnes % of Total
5 and under 318 87% 130 1%
Over 5 - 20 12 3% 157 1%
Over 20 - 50 8 2% 256 2%
Over 50 - 100 9 2% 675 5%
Over 100 - 300 11 3% 1,728 13%
Over 300 9 2% 10,851 79%
Total 367 100% 13,797 100%

Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding

Source: Defra

Around 79% of milk processed in the UK is processed by 9 companies each processing over 300 thousand tonnes per annum. These 9 companies account for only 2% of UK milk processing companies. This compares to 69% back in 2012, when 8 companies were processing over 300 thousand tonnes. According to Defra, data there were 242 companies processing liquid milk in 2015, however, it should be noted that these figures are likely to under estimate the number of smaller manufacturers, therefore affecting the total number.

When it comes to the number of large companies supplying liquid milk to the market, around 90% of UK fresh milk output comes from 7 companies. A similar situation is seen in the cheese market, with around 92% of cheese output in the UK coming from 14 companies. For more information on the structure of UK dairy processors click here

UK Distribution of Dairy Companies by Product

The below table gives the total number of companies processing milk into dairy products. For confidentiality reasons, the figures for butter may not represent 100% of butter producers in the UK that responded to the survey. 

2015 UK Distribution of Dairy Companies by Product
                                                               Companies Processing Milk Volume of Annual Milk Intake
Production of specified commodity Number Thousand tonnes
Liquid Milk 242 6,490
Cheese 95 295
Butter 24 143

Source: Defra