What happens when you combine two scientists and a cheese-making Christmas gift? A business idea, of course!
Jenny and Monica of Cilantro Cheese specialise in goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. The pair were both working at AgResearch until seven years ago, when circumstances meant less time at work and more time getting out the cheese-making gift Jenny had received for Christmas.
The cheese-making started out as a bit of a hobby, one extremely well received by family and friends of the duo. Monica, who has lived in Italy and Brazil, developed a love for the sheep and goat’s cheeses that are so popular overseas. However, to Monica’s disappointment, when arriving in New Zealand she discovered cheese from any animal that wasn’t a dairy cow was practically unheard of.
“We used to not tell people what kind of cheese it was until after they had tasted it, because the idea that it was from a goat instead of a cow put them off”, explains Monica. “The goat’s milk is so fresh it attributes to the flavour of our cheese greatly, it gives it a more lemony flavour”, adds Jenny.
For now Cilantro is only producing small quantities, due to Jenny and Monica not being full time cheese-makers and because of the lack of sheep’s milk being produced in New Zealand. Thankfully the goat’s milk is readily in supply from a goat farm only 12km down the road.
Leading the charge in more than one way
Not only are Monica and Jenny aiming to alter people’s view on sheep and goat’s milk, they’re aiming to maintain a sustainable and economical production method.
“We’d like to see a time when dairy is not just a synonym for cow’s milk, but all animal milk products… While having the smallest possible environmental footprint”.
This attitude is more than just words, with the majority of their set-up from recycled materials. “We have a popcorn factory behind us. We take the drums they have their oil delivered in and use it in our processing. The whey we have as a by-product to production goes to a local free range pig farm”.
Some expansion is on the brain for Cilantro. “One day per week is devoted to product development. It’s the opportunity to trial new flavours and formulas for the cheeses”.
When asked “Why cheese?” the answer was simple; they love cheese! The perfect mix of science and art for a pair of talented women.
Cilantro is looking at giving opportunity to someone who may not have otherwise had the chance. “The process of cheese making can be repetitive and is very hygiene focused. It would be a position suited to someone who, for whatever reason, has exceptional attention to detail” explains Jenny. “Someone strong too! There’s quite a lot of heavy lifting involved so that would be helpful,” Monica adds.