Chris Stephenson and his wife Steph are spearheading a revolution in dairy. When price wars started driving down the cost of milk to less than bottled water, there was only one option for many farmers – move their herds to a life inside a shed – or face bankruptcy. To the Stephensons, this wasn’t a sustainable solution. They were determined to find an alternative to keep local grassland farmers in business, and cows out on pasture. In partnership with the Pasture Promise, the Stephensons bought Free Range Milk to our shelves in 2015, followed by Free Range Lancashire cheese in 2017.
Groundswell Innovation have been fortunate to work with the Stephensons throughout the launch of Free Range Milk and Cheese, as well as opening up new markets in the barista coffee sector across the North West. We caught up with Chris for our 10 Years of Innovation series.
Q: Chris, what do you think the next 10 years holds for future of the dairy industry?
A: What’s absolutely definite is that the norm will no longer be the norm. People want to know where their milk is from. The demand is there, and our Free Range Milk has disrupted the market in more ways that we could imagine. Big supermarkets and dairies are now under pressure to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their milk, and it will be more important than ever to support local farmers after Brexit.
Q: How can we all become innovators?
A: I think we have to look at the box of what we always do and challenge ourselves not to stay in it. We may sometimes be a small cog in a big wheel, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t inspire people to change. I believe it’s something we can all do, whether we are a politician or a cleaner – to think - what can we do differently for the next generation? And it’s important to listen to everyone, because we all play a part in our future.
Q: Do you believe you can teach an old dog new tricks?
A: We all get stuck in our ways, and none of us like change when everything is bobbing along nicely. But each dog is different, and as long as it’s for a good reason, and there is a goal in mind, I believe everyone has the ability to change.
Q: If you could turn back the clock 10 years, would you do anything differently?
A: I wouldn’t change what we have done, but I would have started it earlier. I would like to have had more belief in my own abilities.
Q: Tell us a small thing that we can all do that would make a big impact.
A: Challenge yourself, and listen to others.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: Steph and I volunteer as Scout Leaders, and the younger generation are our inspiration. They come up with so many new and fresh ideas, it’s what’s coming through, and we want to help make their future better.
We also want to credit the Groundswell team for getting us here. Without them, we couldn’t have got as far as we have. They provided the foundations, gave us purpose and belief, as well as a clear story and sense of direction.