Kiwi trade partners say cheese

by Andy Bryenton

New Zealand remains a dominant leader in dairy farming, thanks to a variety of factors. Keeping the Kiwi ‘brand’ at the forefront of consumer’s minds is not the job of our productive herds or even of the farmers who work hard to fill those tankers and meet quality guidelines. It’s the finished products that chefs and consumers talk about, which set the gold standard. 

A good example is cheese. It’s a dairy product with a rich history and an even bigger world championship. On July 30, in Nantwich, Cheshire (home of the Cheshire cheese, naturally) more than 5,000 cheeses from 27 nations will be judged under a big-top sized 85,000 square foot marquee. 

So when Best Non-UK Cheese aged greater than 18 months award for 2018 went to NZMP Epicure, made in Lichfield, NZ, you can bet the French, Dutch, Italian and German cheesemakers paid attention — as did consumers worldwide.

Our own grand prix of cheese has been run locally since 2003 by the NZ Specialist Cheesemakers Association, and it’s set the bar very high for those who craft this gourmet product. 

Their medals for 2019 were awarded last month, and comprise a roll-call of innovators alongside those preserving traditional aspects of the craft. Readers may very well recognise some of the names here from their own cheeseboard selections Puhoi Valley, Kapiti, Mahoe Farmhouse, Over the Moon, Barrys Bay, Cartwheel Creamery and a long list of others all took home gold medals for their offerings. 

All this competition is good news, not just for those with good taste in dining. New Zealand cheeses are recognised internationally for their quality, boosting the profile of the entire dairy industry by showing that we as a farming nation can add substantial value as well as leading in a primary-industry role when it comes to supply of milk and milk products. As people’s tastes become more refined, and it becomes easier to order international foods online, that niche skill will be sure to pay dividends.