October 22, 2020

Cheese company thriving in pandemic by using ‘Slow Food’ philosophy

  • Noah’s Cheese, a cheese company from South Africa, was losing two-thirds of its business at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Now, the company is thriving by adhering to the “Slow Food” movement, which emphasizes locally sourced ingredients and short supply chains.
  • The company also pivoted to making knotted mozzarella cheese, which are quicker to make than the hard cheeses it had focused on before. 
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Patience and dexterity are the keys to turning cheese curds into string cheese. 

That’s what the couple behind South African cheesery Noah’s Cheese have learned as the coronavirus pandemic was derailing their busiest season of the year, forcing them to pivot to a new model.

Now, they make knotted mozzarella using only local ingredients from nearby farms. And they’re struggling to keep up with demand.

“We can ship to anywhere in the country. I think that’s a route that everybody’s taking,” co-owner Marietjie Crowther told Agence France-Presse. “You have to adapt. Adapt or die.”

Marietjie and her husband, Danie Crowther, adapted by scaling down production of hard cheeses, which take around nine months to turn a profit, leaning into these soft string cheeses, and opening up an online store.

The coronavirus pandemic has heightened concern over long supply chains, and as a result, the company’s new system is attracting new customers. And the owners think it could foreshadow bigger changes in the food industry.

“I think we will probably globally see a move away from these highly centralized, big corporate food providers,” co-owner Danie Crowther said. “The cost in terms of the environment, the risk when something like a disaster like this happens, I think is too high.”

cheese

The South African cheese company Noah’s Cheese has seen a resurgence during the pandemic.

AFP


Marietjie Crowther founded Noah’s Cheese in 2012 after her father gifted her a dairy cow. The couple now run the brand together. Since 2017, they’ve used only local resources in their production process.

When the pandemic hit, Noah’s Cheese lost two-thirds of its business overnight. They scaled down production and furloughed staff, but were able to stay in business thanks to reliance on the “Slow Food” movement — a philosophy that promotes short supply chains, locally sourced ingredients, and quality over quantity and speed.

Thanks to the new spike in demand, hard cheese production will resume in the fall, the couple said.

The cheesery runs entirely on solar energy and local raw materials — the wood they use to smoke mozzarella comes from a nearby apple farm. 

“The message is eat what is in season. Know where your food is coming from and support the farmer or the producer directly where you can,” Danie Crowther said. “We talk about good, clean, fair food.”

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