SA cheesemaker plans for new home in state-of-the-art manufacturing plant

Celebrating 30 years of success in cheesemaking, South Australian family business La Casa Del Formaggio has recently announced their move to a new state-of-the-art cheese manufacturing plant, to be built in 2020.

Renowned for their award-winning cheese products including ricotta, bocconcini, mozzarella, pecorino, parmesan, haloumi and burrata, La Casa Del Formaggio will expand from their current site at Glynde, north-east of Adelaide, to the Northern Adelaide Food Park.

The food park at Edinburgh Parks about 25km from the CBD is a food processing and manufacturing hub allowing businesses to innovate and collaborate with industry to access international markets.

La Casa Del Formaggio’s managing director, Claude Cicchiello, says the business is currently in the master planning stages of what they believe will be one of Australia’s best cheese manufacturing facilities.

Cherry bocconcini being made in the Glynde factory.

“I feel very fortunate we’ve been able to do what we love for 30 years, and we’re excited at the opportunity to expand our operations,” he says.

“The world-class modern facility will allow us to continue to produce cheese and dairy products for the Australian consumer, foodservice and export markets.”

Claude’s parents Gerardo and Rosa Cicchiello, migrants from Italy, started the business in 1988. It grew slowly and organically from its origins as a small operation supplying only the Cicchiello’s own continental deli, before higher demand saw the deli close and the cheesemaking operations take centre stage. Today, the business employs 130 people and supplies fresh cheese products Australia wide.

“Our family introduced bocconcini into the Australian market,” Claude says. “It was a product that was foreign to many families who were not used to enjoying fresh cheeses in their meals.”

“However, our local European community was certainly glad to find the product available, and over time we educated consumers through recipe sharing and cooking demonstrations.

“We also had a bit of luck in the early days with celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver using the products in his recipes.”

Claude’s sister Marissa behind the counter at La Casa Del Formaggio’s retail shop.

In the early 1990s Claude successfully implemented manufacturing processes that enabled the bocconcini product to be transported from the manufacturing facility onto supermarket shelves. The bocconcini products are still their number one seller.

“The Australian palate has certainly changed over the past 20 years. I remember a time when it was all about cheddar, with some blue and a little brie, but the demand for fresh cheese has taken off,” Claude says.

“We’re always keeping a close eye on European cheese trends, and our traditional hands-on cheese making techniques allow us to develop these products for the Australian market.

“Last year we launched our burrata – a delicate shell of fresh mozzarella that encases a decadent filling of stracciatella (mozzarella shreds soaked in cream), and it’s already proving to be very popular.”

Claude, left, and his father Gerardo in the factory.

Claude says making a consistent high-quality fresh cheese is not as simple as following a recipe.

“The milk from which you make the cheese changes regularly, and our cheese-makers need to adjust accordingly – it really is an art,” he says.

Along with the new facility at Edinburgh Park, Claude looks forward to maintaining a presence at their current location in Glynde, with a small cheesemaking operation and sales outlet open to the public.

“We still want to honour our home,” he says. “I love South Australia and I couldn’t imagine doing business and living anywhere else.”

Burrata features a delicate shell of fresh mozzarella encasing stracciatella.

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Jervois cheese factory makes its mark with mozzarella

Paul Connolly is living a cheese lover’s dream.

He is surrounded by high quality mozzarella every day in his role as operations manager and master cheesemaker at Beston Global Food Company (BFC’s) dairy factories in Jervois and Murray Bridge in the state’s Murraylands.

Paul has worked in the SA cheese industry since the 1980s, so his contribution to the dairy sector is longstanding.

Three years ago the veteran cheesemaker was working under the factories’ previous owner, Hong Kong-owned United Dairy Power Group, when it fell into receivership.

Along came the Adelaide-based ASX-listed BFC, which purchased the business including its disused and neglected dairy factory at Jervois and another plant in Murray Bridge.

A mural by leading local artist Adam Poole-Mottishaw was painted on the Jervois factory’s façade depicting the history of cheesemaking in the area.

More than 30 jobs were saved, including Paul’s, and the two sites restored to their former glory. Both of the factories had a rich history in the state’s dairy industry and contributed greatly to the economic welfare of the region over time.

“When we watched it (United Dairy) wind down and watched all the uncertainty of what was going to happen, we wondered whether the factory was going to be shut down and what would happen to the team of cheesemakers and staff that worked here,” Paul says.

“But then when we found out that an SA company had bought it, would start it up again and reemploy the workers … it was good times.”

Since 2015, BFC has invested $26.5 million to fit out the Jervois factory with state-of-the-art technology, sourced predominantly from Italy to produce Beston’s Edwards Crossing premium quality mozzarella cheese.

Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick, left, Premier Steven Marshall, BFC chairman Dr Roger Sexton, and Murray Bridge Mayor Brenton Lewis celebrates the unveiling of the mural, and the official opening of the mozzarella factory.

Paul has gone on to help BFC win 70 industry awards for its cheeses, and says the complete overhaul of the Jervois factory has ensured a more modern approach to cheesemaking and greater efficiency.

“We purchased a state-of-the-art mozzarella plant that uses esteemed technology from Italy and packaging equipment from Germany. Our mozzarella plant is fully automated,” Paul says. “Parts were also sourced from Holland and New Zealand.”

BFC also makes a number of by-products at Jervois, including whey powder, cream and butter. It has also restarted the production of lactoferrin, a protein in cow’s milk that goes into infant formula powder.

BFC’s support of the regional economy also extends to the resilient dairy industry, as local farmers supply their milk to Beston.

BFC operations manager and master cheesemaker Paul Connolly with some of the mozzarella.

Soon after the acquisition of the cheesemaking business, BFC contracted 38 dairy families across the state to supply milk for the Jervois and Murray Bridge factories. The company also put programs in place to assist farmers in dire need of financial help at the time.

“We still source our milk from across SA … we source from Meningie and Lower Lakes, from northern areas, the Fleurieu Peninsula and also down to the South East,” Paul says. BFC itself owns a number of dairy farms in the South East and Fleurieu regions.

While the Jervois factory is at the centre of mozzarella action, the Murray Bridge plant produces mature-style cheeses and was completely refurbished after BFC’s takeover.

“The hard cheese plant where they were making the parmesans and more artisan-style cheeses had been mothballed in about 2010 so we decided to get that up and running again too,” Paul says.

“The cheddar plant was really run down … we had to get it up to speed so we could make some really high-quality products reliably.”

Beston’s Edward’s Crossing Vintage Cheddar.

BFC employs about 300 people, directly and indirectly, including employees at other SA companies it has invested in, including third-generation seafood company Ferguson Australia. Beston also invests in premium quality bottled water producer AQUAEssence, which sources spring water from underground aquifers at Mt Gambier.

BFC chairman Dr Roger Sexton says the number of employees at Murray Bridge and Jervois is dynamic depending on production and customer demand.

“There is a mix of full-time, permanent part-time and casuals, needless to say as the company grows the need for more employees, especially in the Murrayland region, will occur,” he says.

BFC has become the seventh largest dairy company in Australia, and while its head office is in Adelaide, the company has offices in China, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Dr Sexton says BFC is well positioned to capitalise on the increase in pizza consumption in Asia with Beston’s Edwards Crossing mozzarella.

“The demand for mozzarella in China is forecast to increase over the next few years from around 175,000 tonnes to 248,000 tonnes in 2022,” he says.

Dr Sexton says BFC is also experiencing an expansion in the domestic market, with its products having an ever-growing presence in major retailers and shops across Australia.

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