It’s all in the milk!

Serge Island moving speedily to step up production

BY RACQUEL PORTER Staff reporter porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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With the launch of the ‘Drink Milk’ campaign last January aimed at reviving the milk industry, Serge Island Dairies — one of the major stakeholders in the milk industry — while maintaining its high standard of producing milk, is now pushing to significantly increase its production.


At present, Serge produces an average of 25,000 to 30,000 litres of milk per day. Seprod, the parent company, has invested more than $200 million into its Serge Island Farms to increase the production of milk from seven million litres last year to meet the 10- million-litre target this year.


"We have invested quite a bit in updating machinery and the various manufacturing processes at our processing plant here in Seaforth, St Thomas, and we are working to make sure we meet the projected targets of the company," general manager at Serge Island Dairies, Marvin Cummings, said.


Marvin Cummings, whose job is not only to ensure that the factory produces the expected quantities, but also to maintain the very strict quality standards, explained the entire process of producing milk — from the time its leaves the Serge farms to when it is packaged and sent out for distribution.


"The milk comes in on trucks after it is collected on the farms ... it is stored on the farms, refrigerated, and then it is brought here to Serge Island Dairies at about four degrees Celsius. When it comes in we receive the raw milk and place it in storage tanks.


"We do a series of quality tests and that is to ensure that the milk is of the grade A standard. If the milk we receive is not of the grade A standard, we do not accept it, and that goes for milk received from our farms here at Serge and from the many small farmers who supply us with milk," Cummings told the Jamaica Observer.


Cummings was quick to reveal that Serge Island Diaries places a lot of emphasis on supporting dairy farmers.


"Without a doubt we give very strong support to the large number of small milk farmers in St Thomas where our facilities are situated, and beyond the parish.


"We have established a strong relationship with these farmers and we appreciate their input, and we are always happy to give them support," Cummings said.


Continuing, Cummings explained: "The milk of the required quality is pumped off into our storage tank in preparation for processing. So once we get the milk within a day or two, we then employ the pasteurisation process, which is basically heat treatment at about 80 degrees Celsius for 18 seconds,after which the now pasteurise milk is stored in the plant."


Following that stage, Cummings said that the milk is once again tested and retested to ensure that quality is always maintained.


"As you are well aware milk is a special product, so we place a lot of time in quality assurance to certify that our milk which will go on the shelves for public consumption, meets all the necessary international standards of consumption," a confident Cummings said.


After the many exhaustive tests, the milk is then ready to go through must another process called the Ultra High Temperature (UHT) process. This is where the milk is sterilised and packaged in Tetra packs.


Tetra Pak is a type of plasticised cardboard carton for the storage of milk and other drinks, folded from a single sheet into a box shape. The Tetra Pak company was founded in the 1960s in Sweden.


"The UHT stage is basically taking the milk up to 140 degrees for four seconds. At this heat treatment the milk is sterilised. Once it leaves the processor it is now a sterile product that goes straight to our filling machines which are UHT-filling machines. The entire process of filling is an aseptic process, meaning that it is a process by which sterile (aseptic) product, typically food or pharmaceutical, is packaged in a sterile container in a way that maintains sterility. Once it leaves the pipeline to the box it is totally enclosed and sterile," Cummings explained.


Under the Serge brand, Serge Island Dairies manufactures a variety of milk products, including flavoured milk bearing the Monster Milk brand, Peanut Punch, Egg Nog, Chocolate Milk, whole milk and one per cent fat-free milk. The one-litre whole milk is the company’s flagship product.


The Seaforth, St Thomas -based factory does co-packaging for several companies as well.


"We manufacture the Ovaltine milk drink and we also do the Cadbury chocolate milk drink," Cummings disclosed.


The factory, which is operated on three shifts for five days per week, employs over 140 workers, the majority of whom reside in surrounding communities. There is a 12-hour shift on the weekend to facilitate the collection of milk.


Apart from milk products, Serge also manufactures several juice products.


"Our main brands are the Swizzle and the Cool Fruit. We also do Bursti and another brand by the name of the Bom. The juices are basically a single stage process — once you blend we just send it straight to the UHT packaging at a lower temperature about 90 degrees for 12 seconds," Cummings noted.


Within a week after manufacturing, the products are delivered to Serge’s two main distributors.


    

   

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