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Teaming up with the big guys

Many small-scale niche producers struggle in their effort to transport their goods to the customers. Tingvollost has found a good solution.

Facts

The cheese adventure at Saghaug farm started in the bathroom of Egil Smith-Meyer’s in-laws. When they had redecorated their bathroom, they suddenly had some space left over. They put a cheese vat in there, and suddenly the family was producing blue cheeses and soft cheeses in a rather cumbersome manner. His mother-in-law, for instance, would use knitting needles for the holes in the blue cheese. By 2004, they had built a new and modern cheese factory, and this year they have added a new loose-housing barn. In 2008, Tingvollost produced 5 tonnes of cheese. The aim is 14 tonnes annually. They have produced the same cheeses since the beginning. The cheeses are made of pasteurised cow’s milk from their own farm, and are stored for up to one year. They are best known for their veined blue cheese "Kraftkar", which was nominated to the "Product of the Year" award in Norway in 2008, and has received international attention.

"We used to run our own transportation. We would have friends and acquaintances take packages with them when they were travelling to cities where we had customers. Our cheeses were transported by bus, and we had to arrange bus transfers where necessary. We also used the Norwegian Coastal Express boat to Bergen. Hotel Union in Geiranger was one of our first customers – and it’s located in a place that’s hard to reach. Transportation was expensive and cumbersome. We spent a lot of time following up our packages and ensuring that they had arrived safely," says Egil Smith-Meyer to the assembled small-scale cheese producers, who nod in agreement, as they know the problems well.

Quick and efficient

Egil Smith-Meyer and his family contacted Tine, Norway’s largest producer of dairy products, enclosing a list of their customers, the volume transported each time and the frequency of dispatches. This gave Tine a basis for calculation.

"Tine demands a minimum of 10 kilos per dispatch. This is sometimes hard for us to meet. We have therefore discussed the possibility of cooperating with other producers who deliver to the same customers as us," says Smith-Meyer, who now has an agreed price per kilo with Tine.

It takes about four days for the dispatch to reach the customer. One great advantage is that the cooling chain isn’t broken on the way. Through their agreement with Tine, Tingvollost now also reaches all types of customers – hotels, restaurants and shops.

Easier introductory sale

"Arranged transportation gives us more customers. My experience is that one of the first questions I get when I contact new customers is where they can get the cheeses. I’m originally from Sandnes, and have on several occasions contacted potential customers there. When I explained that I could send the cheeses by the Norwegian Coastal Express and forward them from there through transportation companies, I realized that I would make no sale. I saw in their eyes that they were thinking: ‘This will involve a lot of extra work’," says Egil Smith-Meyer. "Selling is easier now that I have simple answers to how the product will be delivered to the customers. We receive a monthly invoice, and include transport prices in our cheese price. Distribution is no longer a problem for us," concludes Egil Smith-Meyer.

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