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Highland dairy farm expands offering with new self-service ‘express’

The express store.
The express store.

Connage Highland Dairy has launched its “express” store that allows customers to purchase products such as cheese and milk using self-service vending machines.

Having started making cheese from the milk of their own dairy cows 16 years ago, Jill and Callum Clark of Connage Highland Dairy in Ardersier, near Inverness, have found a new way of using their milk – a vending machine.

Launching the “Connage Express” cold store and vending machine operation last week, the business is now able to sell their own organic milk – pre-bottled and with the ability for customers to “bring their own bottles” for self-service refills.

Callum and Jill Clark.

She said: “I think, really, this ‘express venture’ is an extension of the shop, because we weren’t selling our milk – it’s just beautiful milk and it’s so tasty and sweet. Our cows have a high clover diet so the milk is just so creamy.

“We’ve only had it open a week and we’ve had a wonderful response from the locals – and it’s all been through Facebook.

“If anyone says that social media isn’t worth having then I disagree – honestly, it’s just been amazing!”

CONNAGE EXPRESS IS OPEN! 7am to 7pmCome down to the farm and shop at your leisure from our new and exciting vending…

Posted by Connage Highland Dairy on Friday, 26 March 2021

Express machines

With the store open from 7am to 7pm every day, Jill and her team will be on hand to help if any is required with the express machines.

Jill said: “People come along and we’re around during the day to help people if they’re having trouble with the machine or anything. Some people also bring their own bottles, which is fine.

“The milk comes out of the machine per litre, so you don’t want anything too big if you’re bringing your own bottle. And the thing about that is you’ve got to be careful your bottle is scrupulously clean if you bring it with you. Someone asked me if they could bring their orange juice bottle, but I had to say no.

Some of the vending machines in the store.

“We also have self-service lockers with dry goods in, though not very many, which we’re thinking of expanding. That was always the plan – to start off small and see how it goes then we’ll get a few more boxes of dry goods going.

“The chill is also displaying all of our cheeses but I’ve just recently bought some Scottish wax cheeses from other companies, which we’re also going to put in soon.”

Organic cheeses

Best known for their range of multi-award-winning organic cheeses, as well as featuring products from other businesses such as eggs, bacon, honey, chutneys, honey and coffee, the team is excited to be able to share their produce in this new way.

And following the success of their cheese shop over the past few years, Jill felt the time was right to launch the new express machines.

Some of the products available at the Connage Express.

She continued: “Whilst many local customers still come into our store, The Cheese Pantry, and many of our customers from further afield shop online, many people just want to come to a vending machine and take something away quickly.

“The fact that the Connage Express is open for longer hours than the shop also fits well around people’s busy lives.

“During our first few days of opening we have seen a fantastic flow of cars coming along and customers seemed to be really enjoying the experience. The range of items is large enough that everybody can find something that they will enjoy and I think that people enjoy getting local, quality products in an easy and efficient way.”

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