Flowering Down Under

Kris Lloyd is the proprietor of Woodside Cheese Wrights in Adelaide, Australia. It has produced a range of artisanal, award winning cheeses since 1994. Its range of cow and goat milk cheeses is made by directly sourcing milk from small local dairies, providing the company with excellent control of milk quality, she notes.

Lloyd also founded CheeseFest in South Australia, a festival which now attracts 20,000 visitors every year to the area outside Adelaide.

She discussed her future plans, what makes for a great cheese, and how her journey with Woodside began with Dairy Industries International.

What prompted you to get into cheese making?

My cheese making career is quite accidental, as a result of our family vineyard in McLaren Vale – Coriole Vineyards. I was working there at the time, helping out with some marketing and the occasional stint by the cellar door, where it occurred to me that we could add value to the experience by serving visitors some of our produce such as olive oil, table olives, or homemade bread – it seemed to me that cheese was missing from that plate.

Given we produce everything we sell, it was only natural to think we should make the cheese too. The small problem was that none of us knew how to make cheese. Woodside was an existing but failing business that just happen to come up for sale at that time and so I bought it, but I’d never made cheese in my life.

How has the CheeseFest grown in South Australia?

CheeseFest has grown enormously over the years, with around 20,000 people attending the last one in 2015. This year, we are introducing a progression of CheeseFest with Ferment, the Festival. I have been ‘fermenting’ this idea for a while now and feel it is time to take CheeseFest to the next level by adding value to it.

Ferment, the Festival is not just another food and wine festival, it is a festival with a great story to tell. It will have loads of cheese but also feature other fermented foods and beverages such as chocolate, charcuterie, sour dough bread, pickles, kimchi, yogurt, vinegar, cultured butter, beer, cider, wine, kombucha, gin, vodka, coffee and tea, just to name a few. We are very excited to bring this progressive and innovative festival to South Australia.

How has the Australian market changed since you began producing cheese?

The Australian market has grown enormously. I am speaking about the artisan market, not the industrial one – cow, goat buffalo and sheep milk cheeses are all being produced now and the number of small cheese makers grows every year. There is room for a lot more growth and growth in the export market also, with demand for clean and green products high on the list.

Our environment allows us to produce world class quality raw material, to make not just great cheese but great food and wine.

What is the bestseller?

Currently our most in demand cheese is Anthill, the cheese that won Supergold at the World Cheese Awards in San Sebastian. What I love about this cheese other than its amazing taste and look is that it is 100 per cent Australian. It is made by an Australian cheese maker, using Australian goat milk, including Australian lemon myrtle and topped with Australian native green ants. I think it is incredibly important to illustrate the innovation and entrepreneurialism that is the backbone of my cheese making philosophy. This is a true representation of Australian cheese making and nobody anywhere else in the world is making this cheese – I like that.

What is the process behind deciding to make a new cheese?

It depends on why you want to make a new cheese. For instance, I might create a cheese because I see a gap in the market for a particular style, or I might create a new cheese for a bit of fun. I might create a new cheese because I am bored or I might create one because I need a challenge – either way it needs to be consistently good and it needs to taste amazing. I have a bit of a risk appetite and I like to push the boundaries with my cheese making and create cheese with a point of difference. As a business model, it has paid off in spades.

What is the main issue facing the Australian cheese making industry now?

The Australian cheese industry is still quite young and still has a lot more growing to do. I think the main issue is milk supply, as the economic incentives are not there for dairy farmers to stay in the game. Milk prices have plummeted and I have seen dozens of dairy farms close down just in my region alone, so it’s very sad. Drought also plays a significant role in making life difficult for farmers in Australia, although we have had a good couple of years of rainfall in the past.

Where do you expect growth to occur in the next few years?

I see the growth in the speciality end of town rather than the industrial – there is a growing consumer interest in artisan cheese and even bigger consumer interest in understanding why they made it, where it comes from and what’s in it. I call it ‘Who What Where Food’. People are interested in buying local, and our farmers’ market movement here in Australia is very strong and has been a catalyst for many small producers to get their wares in front of the right people.

Our independent supermarkets are supporters of local producers and have made artisan cheeses accessible to all consumers with multiple stores in our states. I can only see this growing – it’s all very positive.

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