Chris Swallow

Is growing a family business a hard mantle to wear?

It’s definitely an exciting mantle, but something that comes with a lot of responsibility. It helps that as a second generation custodian of the business - along with my brother in law Rob - I have the same vision for Creamline’s future as my father, Tony Swallow, who bought the business in 1994 and has been a brilliant mentor to me.

I was just 24 when I joined Creamline over 20 years ago, so I’ve grown with the company and it’s definitely more than just a job to me! I take my responsibility to our 320-strong team extremely seriously and it’s always been our shared vision as owners of Creamline to do the very best we can by our staff. We always say that we want to be that little bit better at what we do every day, an attitude that I think has got us where we are today – because all that striving for success on a daily basis means that we make serious leaps forward every year.

Importantly Rob, Dad and I have always had a clear vision for Creamline to stay very much a successful, regional, family owned company. Concentrating our energies on the North West means we can do a really great job, without the risk of spreading ourselves too thin, which could be a concern if we were hungry for national expansion. The thought of my kids – who are still tiny at the moment! – joining the family business when they’re ready is really appealing, if that’s what they want to do with their lives.

I think it would be viable too, as by ensuring our service is relevant to the modern market, we’re also protecting the business’ longevity.

What’s the best part of your job?

I’m lucky because I like what I do. I'm heavily involved in the operations and sales side of the business, which are among the major cogs that are driving the company’s success. My management team is vital – really the whole business is about the people. Of course, it’s great and exciting to invest in machinery: over the last few years we’ve poured £1m into tankers and our production plant – but it’s the people who make the business tick, and who make it a brilliant place to work.

Here come the quick fire questions....ready?!

Town or country? Town.

Books or iPad? Books – I like reading non-fiction about business, success and life, when I get the chance to switch off. One of the books that’s really left an impression is BOUNCE by Barry Moltz. I’m a bit of a holiday reader though!

Tea or coffee? Coffee every time.

Cook or be cooked for? I definitely like being cooked for!

Why is local provenance so important?

We’ve always been keen supporters of locally sourced food and milk. These days local provenance is a bit of a buzzword, but at Creamline, we’ve always sourced our milk locally. Back in 2014 we completed the roll out of a local provenance programme, which means all of our milk is now produced on farms within a 30 mile radius of our processing plant.

Recently we’ve also built exciting links with local independent suppliers, to form our Best of Local range, which means we bring our customers the very freshest meat, bread and other artisan items, sourced from other family businesses, who are as passionate about what they do as we are.

What are you most proud of about Creamline?

It makes me proud that we employ so many local people. Creamline is a big employer in areas like Salford and Cheetham Hill and it feels really good to be able to provide over 300 jobs. Since we acquired Dairy Crest’s NW depot based business, we’ve dramatically boosted our numbers and we’ve had plenty of positive feedback from our newly extended team about how great it is to work for a family owned, local business.

I make sure I go to all our depots every week so that I stay close to all parts of the business and all the staff. It’s to everyone’s benefit that the team feels that they can always speak freely to Rob and I – some of the best ideas for the business have come from our team, my favourite example of this is the lottery initiative, which has created funds of around £15,000 per year for charity and prizes amounting to £30,000 every year for our customers since a member of our team had a light bulb moment over 25 years ago!

What are your plans for the future of Creamline and what does the year ahead hold in store?

When we launched our online platform in 2013, we were hopeful of its success, as it filled a real need amongst customers who loved the idea that they could go online to order milk and other essentials any time ‘til 9pm in the evening for delivery to their door, ready for breakfast the next morning.

In the years since our online launch, this side of the business has grown dramatically: in this time we acquired Dairy Crest’s NW based depot business, including their online offering, Milk and More.

Since then we’ve taken our online delivery service to a new level, with the exciting launch of Best of Local. We’re always looking to develop and improve this range, so it’s worth keeping an eye on the website and joining up to our mailing list, so you can be amongst the first to hear about our news.

Creamline is an important part of the community in Greater Manchester, with a strong reputation for giving charity. Is this important to you?

Extremely. We’re based on philanthropic principles and feel the best thing we can do for the community is to provide as many secure jobs as possible. In our charity work we also want to do more than just give financial support.

We were delighted to win the corporate social responsibility/Pride award in the prestigious NW Business Desk awards scheme, alongside several awards recognising how far the business has come. I think that’s because we live and breathe our commitment to the community. We celebrated raising over £100,000 for St Ann's Hospice, which is a major milestone for the charity and for Creamline. This has been achieved by our local lottery scheme, as well as fun community events.

And then there’s the Cream of the Community scheme. We launched the project as a way to give back to unsung heroes who are as committed as we are to doing good.