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Who We Are

Most of what we do at Neal’s Yard Dairy involves a sharp focus on cheese— on finding, selecting, maturing and selling the British and Irish cheeses we like best. But none of what we do would work were it not for our similarly acute commitment to people. Every step of the way, the success of our work is completely reliant upon the high levels of expertise and enthusiasm of the staff in our maturing arches, offices and shops. Our mission is to improve British cheese, but to do so we need to develop the skills that will drive that improvement and find and support people who feel inspired to make it happen.

TEAMS
COMMUNITY
WORKING PRACTICES

Teams

Buying

Buying cheese sounds very romantic, but it comes down to having the right amount of cheese of the right age at the right time – and at the right price. The Buying team is based in our maturing arches in Bermondsey, working with our sales, maturation and packing teams to understand what we need and with the cheesemakers to ensure that we communicate those needs effectively. The team has become progressively more field-based and a significant amount of time is spent on the road, visiting ...

Buying cheese sounds very romantic, but it comes down to having the right amount of cheese of the right age at the right time – and at the right price. The Buying team is based in our maturing arches in Bermondsey, working with our sales, maturation and packing teams to understand what we need and with the cheesemakers to ensure that we communicate those needs effectively. The team has become progressively more field-based and a significant amount of time is spent on the road, visiting farms, tasting and selecting cheese, organising workshops and information exchange, and working to identify and encourage the next generation of British cheesemakers. At the moment, we are working to systematise the buying process to optimise the amount of stock we buy and hold for every cheese, taking into account variability, flavour and changes in demand. By having great systems, we’ll be able to spend more time on the personal relationships and cheese tastings that are so central to what we do.

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Production

The Production team is composed of two parts: the Cheeseshift and the Production Line. When Neal’s Yard Dairy consisted of a single shop, one person had the task of looking after the cheese whenever there were no customers to serve – a job known as the ‘cheeseshift’. Now, there are seven permanent cheeseshifters, with another person from elsewhere in the business rota’d in to help them. This group receives the cheese from our cheesemakers, matures it in our matur...

The Production team is composed of two parts: the Cheeseshift and the Production Line. When Neal’s Yard Dairy consisted of a single shop, one person had the task of looking after the cheese whenever there were no customers to serve – a job known as the ‘cheeseshift’. Now, there are seven permanent cheeseshifters, with another person from elsewhere in the business rota’d in to help them. This group receives the cheese from our cheesemakers, matures it in our maturing arches in Bermondsey and supplies it to our shops, ecommerce, wholesale and export. The Production Line, with a team of permanent staff, is responsible for supplying hundreds of shops and restaurants around the UK and the rest of the world, which amounts to a significant proportion of our outgoing volume. The Production team’s aim is to improve the quality of the cheese we sell by evolving our maturing environments, streamlining and stabilising our workflow, training and developing individual members of the team.

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The Shops

The shops are the face of the business, and it is here that so many strands of Neal’s Yard Dairy – the cheesemongers, the cheesemakers and the customers – finally converge. The function of the shops is to sell the best possible cheese, with the best possible service. Our cheesemongers aim to be open and friendly to all who walk in, while not forgetting their single most important task: to encourage customers to taste the cheese. It is also imperative that they taste it thems...

The shops are the face of the business, and it is here that so many strands of Neal’s Yard Dairy – the cheesemongers, the cheesemakers and the customers – finally converge. The function of the shops is to sell the best possible cheese, with the best possible service. Our cheesemongers aim to be open and friendly to all who walk in, while not forgetting their single most important task: to encourage customers to taste the cheese. It is also imperative that they taste it themselves, every day. Upholding the quality of the cheese, through how it is ordered, cut, wrapped and stored, is another large part of our work – we refer to it as ‘cheesecare’ – as is the maintenance of a clean, safe environment in which cheese can be sold in the Neal’s Yard Dairy style, out in the open. Everyone in the business has worked in the shops at some time, and many are called in to help out at Christmas. We enjoy regular visits from our cheesemakers where they can get direct feedback from customers, and we also use the shops to host and train wholesale customers from the UK and abroad, as well as running cheese classes for the public.

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Wholesale

Since the early 1990s Neal’s Yard Dairy has been wholesaling to shops and restaurants in the UK and a further 18 countries around the world. What started as a single shift in our Covent Garden shop now accounts for 80% of our business. The nature of farmhouse cheese is its variability, across batches and even from wheel to wheel. Therefore the aim of our Wholesale team is to listen to and understand customer preferences, communicate the flavour and texture of each batch, and match custo...

Since the early 1990s Neal’s Yard Dairy has been wholesaling to shops and restaurants in the UK and a further 18 countries around the world.

What started as a single shift in our Covent Garden shop now accounts for 80% of our business. The nature of farmhouse cheese is its variability, across batches and even from wheel to wheel. Therefore the aim of our Wholesale team is to listen to and understand customer preferences, communicate the flavour and texture of each batch, and match customer to cheese. The way we achieve this is quite simple – we are constantly tasting cheese and regularly speaking with our customers.

Our week starts with a series of walkthroughs when we head into the maturing rooms and taste through all the batches to be packed and shipped that week. Cheese features daily on boards on our desk and is incorporated in the meals we cook for our NYD family lunch. We may be office based but cheese is never more than an arm’s length away! Speaking with customers regularly is important as it allows us to understand what works for them, how the cheese has held up on their counter or in their service style, and the condition in which it arrived. The information we gather from our customers is discussed with our Cheeseshift team, our Buyers and our producers, thus completing the feedback loop. The Wholesale team is often on the road, sharing their knowledge and hosting in-house training on how best to taste, interact with and care for our cheeses. We feel passionately that the future of farmhouse cheese depends on knowledgeable and engaged cheesemongers. Our aim is to create that environment through education and training.

 

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Events & Cheese Classes

A few times each year, a team of two or three people will hit the open road and take a van full of cheese on an adventure, usually to an agricultural show or market. The Events department has no fixed team, instead ‘borrowing’ people from all across the business for each event. These days are long, with non-stop tasting and talking, but they offer us the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our cheeses to people all around the country. They also give our staff the chance to b...

  • A few times each year, a team of two or three people will hit the open road and take a van full of cheese on an adventure, usually to an agricultural show or market. The Events department has no fixed team, instead ‘borrowing’ people from all across the business for each event. These days are long, with non-stop tasting and talking, but they offer us the opportunity to introduce ourselves and our cheeses to people all around the country. They also give our staff the chance to build their confidence and promote the skills and knowledge required to be an excellent cheesemonger. The same can be said of our public cheese classes, which are held a couple of times a week above the Borough Market shop. At these, staff members speak about a wide range of topics, from the history of British cheese to making the perfect fondue. We also run private classes and corporate team-building events. Our hope is that anyone who discovers us for the first time at an event or a class will continue walking through our doors for many years to come.

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Directors

Neal’s Yard Dairy has a defined mission: to improve British cheese. It is the job of the directors to instil an enthusiasm for this mission and ensure that it underpins every decision we take. Their primary function is to integrate these four simple words into a set of clear long-term objectives, mostly to do with cheese: how we select, mature and sell it. They also need to ensure the business remains a sustainable one; one in which the value we work so hard to produce is shared...

  • Neal’s Yard Dairy has a defined mission: to improve British cheese. It is the job of the directors to instil an enthusiasm for this mission and ensure that it underpins every decision we take. Their primary function is to integrate these four simple words into a set of clear long-term objectives, mostly to do with cheese: how we select, mature and sell it. They also need to ensure the business remains a sustainable one; one in which the value we work so hard to produce is shared respectfully amongst our customers, producers, staff and the company. To these ends, they spend time looking at our processes and systems, with a relentless focus on the quality of the cheese and the service we provide to our customers and producers. They seek to learn from the experiences of others, as well as assisting those new to the field – a task made easier by the open and cooperative nature of our industry. Get this right and the next generation of cheesemakers will want to make cheese, young people will be inspired to work as cheesemongers and open their own shops, and the future will be assured.

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Quality Assurance

Raw milk cheese, of which Neal’s Yard Dairy is a proud advocate, has a strong track record for safety compared to many other foods. The Quality Assurance team’s job is to work with suppliers to ensure that the cheeses they produce for us are safe, and to manage the Dairy’s internal quality system to ensure that our own handling of cheese is safe and hygienic. They are charged with monitoring and maintaining our quality system and acting as a liaison with customers and health...

Raw milk cheese, of which Neal’s Yard Dairy is a proud advocate, has a strong track record for safety compared to many other foods. The Quality Assurance team’s job is to work with suppliers to ensure that the cheeses they produce for us are safe, and to manage the Dairy’s internal quality system to ensure that our own handling of cheese is safe and hygienic. They are charged with monitoring and maintaining our quality system and acting as a liaison with customers and health officers, as well as working with teams across the business to evolve their practices. Bronwen heads the team and has a more long-term and outward-looking role, working to develop links between cheesemakers and academics interested in microbial communities, biofilms and zoonotic diseases. Neal’s Yard Dairy sponsors, and Bronwen organises, the Conference on the Science of Artisan Cheese, a biennial event that brings together cheesemakers, scientists and regulators in the spirit of information exchange and collaboration. Bronwen also chairs the technical committees of two industry bodies, the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and the new Raw Milk Producers Association, both of which work with regulators and producers to ensure a bright future for raw milk cheeses.

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Operations & IT

Like the sweeper in a game of curling, the Operations team understands where we’re trying to get to and is out in front, smoothing the way. This means finding out from people in the company what they need to do their job effectively – speaking to colleagues, visiting them where they work, taking time to fully understand their needs. There are no impulse buys: purchases of products and services are carefully researched, with the benefit they will bring to the cheese being t...

  • Like the sweeper in a game of curling, the Operations team understands where we’re trying to get to and is out in front, smoothing the way. This means finding out from people in the company what they need to do their job effectively – speaking to colleagues, visiting them where they work, taking time to fully understand their needs. There are no impulse buys: purchases of products and services are carefully researched, with the benefit they will bring to the cheese being the primary consideration; cost, environmental impact and supplier relationships are close behind. It is also the role of the Operations team to ensure that the supply and use of products and services is efficient and cost-effective. They aim to spend 80 per cent of their time keeping systems running and 20 per cent looking for ways to do things better. By continually questioning how and why we do things, prioritising tasks and projects that will save time later and simplifying processes wherever possible, they strive to make us more efficient in all we do.

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Maintenance

The Maintenance team are based in a workshop next door to the Neal’s Yard Dairy arches in Bermondsey. As well as working for Neal's Yard Dairy, they also look after Monmouth Coffee Company, whose offices and coffee roasting facility are based just 100 metres away. Their role is to keep the premises and equipment of both businesses in safe working conditions, either by fixing problems themselves or handing them over to one of our approved contractors. Tasks range from simple things like ...

The Maintenance team are based in a workshop next door to the Neal’s Yard Dairy arches in Bermondsey. As well as working for Neal's Yard Dairy, they also look after Monmouth Coffee Company, whose offices and coffee roasting facility are based just 100 metres away. Their role is to keep the premises and equipment of both businesses in safe working conditions, either by fixing problems themselves or handing them over to one of our approved contractors. Tasks range from simple things like replacing light bulbs, dealing with leaking pipes, painting blackboards and putting up shelves to larger jobs such as building a partition wall, creating a new meeting room or assisting with the refurbishment of a shop. They also arrange the required programme of annual inspections and servicing.

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Our 40th birthday party with friends, family and cheesemakers

A Borough Evening of Cheese after party

Setting up outside our Borough shop as part of the Borough Evening of Cheese festivities

A Cheesemaking Fundamentals class attended by staff and the public

Community

Many of us at Neal’s Yard Dairy are of course attracted by the cheese, but our strong people culture plays a huge part in keeping us passionate and engaged. We have an average tenure of five-and-a-half years, and many of us have been here a lot longer.

We work dynamically, which helps to keep us engaged. As well as more traditional career progression paths, we offer our people the chance to grow their skills laterally by exploring each of the five different ‘pillars’ of our work: cheese, people, sales, profit and process. We also provide many communal learning opportunities, from subsidised spots on our cheesemaking courses, to informal workshops and maturing experimentation groups.

Our sense of community is a major strength. Our people speak of “a family feel” and of “belonging”. We do our best to be family friendly by offering enhanced parental leave and being open to the idea of flexible working. At our maturing site and main office, we all sit down together each day for lunch, taking turns to cook using our weekly fresh fruit and veg delivery – and, of course, a good serving of cheese. All of our shops also receive a weekly fruit and veg delivery, and while a communal sit-down isn’t possible while we’re open for business, we actively encourage everybody to enjoy a proper lunch.

We started out as part of a community of businesses in Neal’s Yard, Covent Garden, and this spirit of collaboration has been sustained throughout our evolution. We continue to build relationships with like-minded companies that share our commitment to the cause of great food and drink. We play an important role in the cheesemaking community, attending and organising events that bring cheese professionals together, and working with legislators to better understand and protect the profession.

Working Practices

Neal’s Yard Dairy’s business is run using Open Book Management, a system that requires participation, collaboration, accountability and awareness, and invites everyone to take responsibility for its operation. We all see the numbers that chart our successes and are empowered to affect them personally and collectively. Past examples range from noticing that our bins don’t need collecting quite so often, thus making significant savings each year, to securing a deal to sell a l...

Neal’s Yard Dairy’s business is run using Open Book Management, a system that requires participation, collaboration, accountability and awareness, and invites everyone to take responsibility for its operation. We all see the numbers that chart our successes and are empowered to affect them personally and collectively. Past examples range from noticing that our bins don’t need collecting quite so often, thus making significant savings each year, to securing a deal to sell a large volume of cheese to support a cheesemaker in a tight spot, but all of us can make a difference.

We also use 'Lean' production methods to ensure that we are running the business mindfully and effectively, and a 'Kanban' system for stock management. Having such systems in place allows us more time for the important business of developing our cheese and our people.

Gaining an understanding of the methods we apply to running our business can be a great learning process. In fact, many of our alumni have gone on to set up their own successful businesses, not only in the UK but across the world. Below we’ve listed some of the fabulous cheese shops and food businesses our former colleagues have gone on to create.

Au Lait Cru

Canterbury Cheesemongers  

Chorlton Cheesemongers

Crown and Queue

Jericho Cheese Company

Jones of Brockley

Kernel Brewery

Landrace Bakery

London Cheesemongers

Mons Cheese UK

Quesaria Cultivo

 

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