GRH Food, near Pwllheli, was founded in 1989.
Gareth Hockridge, chairman of the family-run company, told DairyReporter their business is primarily with cheese packers; cutting, grating, slicing and blending mainly UK hard cheese and territorials, and some continental cheeses like Gouda, Edam, Emmental, mozzarella.
The move to goat cheese
“We broke into goat cheese about 18 months ago when we saw an opportunity with some new kit (equipment) that we'd put into the plant to do another job. It's taken 12-16 months of trial and error to get what we believe is correct,” Hockridge said.
He added that much of that time was spent going through various food safety legislation measures to allow goat cheese on the premises.
A new market
Hockridge told this site that a Welsh manufacturer supplies GRH Food with the raw material, which the company then processes further to make pearls or a rindless goat cheese log, both of which are sold under its own Four Crosses Goat Cheese brand.
He added that goat cheese currently represents less than 1% of the total cheese market in the UK, but there is room for that to grow.
“It’s a relatively new market for many companies,” he said.
“We looked at the market data, the Kantar data, and we could see it was a growth market. That gives you the incentive to do something with it. We are becoming more bespoke in what we're doing and this is one of the products that will fit into that niche.
“Everyone is looking for something that little bit different.”
Looking to Europe
Goat’s cheese has long been popular in continental Europe, and Hockridge said they have looked at the market there.
“We've looked at what they're doing, not necessarily to replicate it, but to look at how we can make it work in the UK.”
Goat’s cheese is very versatile, according to Hockridge.
“The beauty with what we can do with the goat cheese is with using infused oils, either sunflower or rapeseed, you can put lots of different flavor twists on and then it's a salad product, a topping product, or a product that can go into a meal, so it's got lots of functionality.
“We're trialling and testing other infused oils that add flavor and will probably add various things to the cheese itself as well as the oil, whether it be peppers, fruits; this is the beauty of the raw material.”
The rindless difference
With respect to the log, one major difference with the Four Crosses cheese is that a traditional goat cheese log is generally left to naturally mold or rind, which is a natural process.
“Our goat log is very fresh, we don't have any rind on it, so the selling point for us is that 100% of the product is edible,” Hockridge said.
“I'm not saying that rind isn't edible, but a lot of people don't like it, so they would just use the center of the log.”
Use in recipes
“We've seen the benefits of raw goat milk for many years, but as a finished product into goat cheese, it's very much been a luxury item,” Hockridge said.
“But we're seeing it more in recipes, as Nigel Barden did.”
Barden is a UK TV and radio food presenter, who contributes recipes to the Radio 2 Simon Mayo drivetime show that regularly pulls in more than six million listeners a day.
The celebrity chef used the Four Crosses Goats Cheese in a Goats Cheese and Caramelised Onion Tart on air.
“The joy of this tart is that you can serve it warm or cold,” Barden explained.
Hockridge said he was delighted Barden had selected the Four Crosses Goats Cheese after having tried it at the Royal Welsh Show this summer.
The appearance led to a flurry of activity, and Hockridge said that reaction has been very positive.
“Wherever we've sold it, we've had repeat orders,” he said.
The award-winning Four Crosses Goats Cheese is available in 180g pots of Goats Cheese Pearls in Sunflower Oil Infused with Herbs de Provence, retailing for between £2.00 and £2.50 ($2.48-$3.10).
Portions of Four Crosses Goats Cheese 900g Log are available from local deli counters.