Liverpool wouldn't be most companies' first choice for a manufacturing location. But Dairy Crest's plant at Kirkby is a jewel in the corporate crown, churning out not just 50,000 tonnes a year of dairy spreads such as St Ivel Gold, Utterly Butterly and Vitalite, but also 20% of the pounds 1.3 billion group's profits.
The plant is 'well invested', as the Dairy Crest annual report puts it. But the secret of its recent achievements - and the reason for confidence in its future - is the fruitful combination of investment and the Merseyside workforce.
Such an outcome would have seemed unlikely at several stages in the plant's up-and-down history. Originally planned for the motor industry, it began life in 1957 making cheese, salad dressing and margarine for Kraft. For a decade it prospered, at one time employing 1,900. But in 1983 Kraft transferred cheese and dressings to the Continent, making 900 people redundant and leaving only margarine at Kirkby. 'It was the worst day in my life,' recalls one 26-year plant veteran, who is now a team leader.