Essential networks

News "Start networking!" say Einar Alme of Innovation Norway and Åshild Longva of Nofima Mat to Norwegian small-scale food manufacturers on every possible occasion. And Norwegian cheese producers have followed up on their suggestion.


"Start networking!" say Einar Alme of Innovation Norway and Åshild Longva of Nofima Mat to Norwegian small-scale food manufacturers on every possible occasion. And Norwegian cheese producers have followed up on their suggestion.

"Start networking!" say Einar Alme of Innovation Norway and Åshild Longva of Nofima Mat to Norwegian small-scale food manufacturers on every possible occasion. And Norwegian cheese producers have followed up on their suggestion.

"Networks can mean so much. They give you an opportunity to share experiences, learn from the experiences of others, get in touch with others who really understand your issues, finding someone you can call about technical questions regarding your production, discovering subsidies and where you can find assistance and help," informs Einar Alme.

"It’s very important for the small-scale producers and Tine, Norway’s largest producer of dairy products, to have a common forum where they can meet and exchange experiences, because they have many issues in common. They can help and encourage each other," he continues, and receives full support on this from the participants of a newly completed cheese network arranged by Innovation Norway and Nofima Mat.

The third network for cheese producers started in March. Around the same time, another network is coming to an end in Portugal. The participants in the latter network have met four times in the past two years. They have visited cheese producers in France, Switzerland and Portugal. Here are the conclusions of the participants on how useful they found the network.

Owners: Othild and Asbjørn Tjugen

  • Annual turnover NOK 1.4 million, including cheese sales for NOK 300,000. Their aim is NOK 2 million.
  • Produce about 10 different types of cheese from upasteurised cow’s milk, including fresh and ripened smear ripe cheese and white mold cheese.
  • Main customers: local supermarket Coop Mega and restaurants in the same county.

Why did you participate?
We felt the need for a network, more knowledge and higher competence. We recently took part in an Agro Fram project, where we learned how important it is to network.
What is your conclusion?
We’re completely satisfied! We have made alliances, and we have received confirmation that our own production works well. We are also left with a number of ideas for further development, which we will take home and continue working on.

Avdem Gardsysteri AS
Avdem Gardsysteri AS has twenty stockholders. Three milk producers own 51% of the stock.
Run by: Åse Haugstad and Sigurd Avdem

  • Annual turnover NOK 1.1 million. Want to double their production.
  • Produces white cheese from unpasteurised milk and brown cheese. The also produce most of their own heating with bioenergy from their own wood-chip furnace, which provides heating to both the cheese-producing facilities and three domestic buildings. They have received environmental certification through the Eco-Lighthouse Programme.
  • Produce 12 different kinds of cheese.
  • Own sales outlet, but also sales at local fairs, through organisations and in local stores, as well as to specialty outlets and restaurants in Oslo.

Why did you participate?
We need to increase our production and our profitability. We have produced cheese since 2005 and now felt the need for some new impulses.
What is your conclusion?
Lots of fun! We see that producers in Portugal and France manage to produce large quantities by relatively simple means. The cheese producers there select a few kinds of cheese with a high quality. We see that we have some work to do, and that we should consider narrowing our product range.

Skånaliseter gårdsysteri
Main owners: Svein and Eli Kristin Håpnes

  • Annual turnover NOK 1 million. Want to double their production.
  • Produce organic cheese from their own milk; brown cheese and 16 variants of soft, white goat cheese.
  • Customers include wholesaler OsteCompagniet AS, local stores and restaurants across the country. The farm has its own sales outlet as well as selling cheese on local market days and over the Internet.

Why did you participate?
We had received an invitation to export cheese to Great Britain and needed to find out what is needed to succeed in cheese exports, and what work we needed to do in that respect.
What is your conclusion?
BRC accreditation turned out to be too comprehensive for us, since we only have two permanent employees, so we have decided to wait with that until we’ve expanded. However, the trip to Switzerland gave us an idea of how we can manage year-round operation by concentrating and storing milk for the times of year when the goats are not producing milk. We are currently cooperating with Tine on testing the method we saw in Switzerland for continuous production of goat cheese throughout the year.

Bryns gardsmeieri
Owners: Per and Astrid Bryn

  • Annual turnover: NOK 700,000. Want to remain a local small-scale producer.
  • Produces around 20 different kinds of brown and white goat cheeses.
  • Mostly local sales – market days, farm outlets and local grocery store.

Why did you participate?
We need to simplify our work situation and become more efficient. We also need to achieve a more even quality on our brown cheese.
What is your conclusion?
The network has been of great use to us. We have networked with other producers, and discussed issues with our peers both in Norway and abroad. The University of Life Sciences (UMB) has assisted us with production techniques and quality, and we have learned to use the milk to a greater extent.

Local dairies from Dovre, Ørsta and Setesdal belonging to dairy giant Tine also took part in the network, as well as a representative from Tine’s R&D department.
What is your conclusion?
"During the network period, in May 2008, Dovre dairy launched an organic brie – a product which is a direct consequence of the network," say Odd Ulsaker and Ymbjørg Øwre from Dovre dairy.
"We have a large plant with many small productions – 23 products in all. It’s important that we know what makes money and make a conscious decision on what we should concentrate on. This is something we will continue working on internally," says Bente Reklev from Ørsta dairy.
"We largely produce butter, and are planning a field trip to France to see butter production there," says Solveig Skjeggedal from Setesdal dairy.
"The insight into the daily lives of small-scale producers was useful. Networks can be used to develop diversity. One idea which emerged after a field trip with the network to Switzerland has led to a concrete TINE project building on microfiltering technology, which can contribute to a better use of raw materials in goat cheese," says Knut Erik Grindaker from TINE’s R&D department.

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