Mediterranean dairy producers are being encouraged to combine their traditional skills with an entrepreneurial spirit to meet demand for the region’s products.
Lactimed, an organization which promotes Mediterranean dairy products, will train local producers in set of competitions it is launching this year.
Many producers in the region are small, family owned businesses. Aurélien Baudoin, project co-ordinator, Lactimed, told DairyReporter.com authentic regional cheeses and other dairy items are in demand, and the project will encourage efficient production, product visibility and sales.
Products evoke images of the region
“The traditional know-how has been used for centuries, given from one person to another, parents to children," he said. "We believe that is what makes these products very strong. There’s an interest from consumers in these local products that give an image of the territory.
“Producers have to find new ways to promote their products and access the market. With these products, we believe innovation will give access to the consumers.”
The success of local dairy producers is important to keep local traditions alive, support the local economy, and provide employment, Baudoin said. The project is also encouraging good practices such as animal welfare, he added.
Local producers need to know how to sell products and emphasize their value, he said.
“Customers need to know why the product is different. What the milk is, the costs of production, and how quality is maintained. We have to show why it gives a different taste, and why it sometimes has a higher price.
“We have some special varieties of goats or sheep that are sometimes in danger of extinction. They give local products, which we want to support and keep.”
Training for producers
To encourage entrepreneurship and development, Lactimed is launching a series of competitions across the region . Selected projects will received training and help developing their business plans. The best projects – judged on their technological, organizational or social merits – will win €10,000.
“We believe it’s a good incentive for the dairy chain,” Baudoin said. “After the first stage, we will select up to eight entries in each territory, look at what could be stronger, and work with them to make a better project. Two in each territory will win.
“The six that don’t win will still have that opportunity to improve their project with coaching, contacts and support organisations. We believe it’s an opportunity for them to get access to other funds.
“The main idea is to work on typical projects, mainly cheese, and add innovation. This could be on the packaging, or developing new ways of working – such as working between several producers and getting a common room to bring the cheeses to [for maturing].”
The Sicilian competition was launched in May, during a promotional week for the island’s traditional cheeses. Typical products include piacentinu (made in the province Enna from sheep’s milk, pepper and saffron), and pecorino siciliano (an EU origin-protected sheep milk cheese).
This month competitions will open in Egypt, Lebanon, Greece and Tunisia.
The competition is open to micro, Small or Medium Enterprise (SME), consortia of companies, associations or professional federations, students, laboratories or research centers.
Lactimed fosters the production and distribution of typical Mediterranean dairy products by organising local value chains, supporting producers in their development projects and creating new markets for their products. It is financed by the European Union.