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Artisanal cheese triumphs over 800 products as Dairy Product of the Year

Belnori Boutique Cheesery’s Norman Belcher, Johan Ehlers (CEO, Agri-Expo), Rina Belcher and Bongi Nondzama 

An artisanal cheese made from equal parts goat’s and cow’s milk is South Africa’s 2019 Dairy Product of the Year.

St Francis of Ashisi, made by Belnori Boutique Cheesery from Bapsfontein, Gauteng, was crowned as the winner out of 882 dairy products from 76 manufacturers at the Agri-Expo Qualité Awards Gala Dinner on 29 March 2019 at GrandWest.

“For a product to be awarded the prestigious title of Dairy Product of the Year in a competition of this nature is a long and difficult journey and the dream of every dairy technologist,” says chief judge and international dairy expert Kobus Mulder. “Not only is it an extraordinary performance, but also a proof of sustained good manufacturing knowledge and practices as well as quality control.”

According to Mulder; St Francis of Ashisi, with its beautiful appearance, its soft, melt-in-the-mouth texture and creamy taste deserves a place on every cheese board. The cheese is made with the lactic acid coagulation method which is well known in France. The cheese is covered in white edible fungus and vegetable ash. The ash helps to curb the lactic acid development in the cheese.

Belnori Boutique Cheesery has received several Qualité awards at previous Championships, but this is the first time they are awarded the Product of the Year. The owners of Belnori, Rina and Norman Belcher, are world-renowned cheese makers who have won many international awards, including the Agri-Expo Award for “Best South African Cheese” at the 2018 World Cheese Awards in Bergen, Norway. Rina Belcher was honoured on the Agri-Expo Role of Honour in 2016 for her contribution to the dairy industry.

The SA Dairy Championships has been presented by Agri-Expo since 1834. Johan Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer of Agri-Expo, says this year’s entries indicate progress, innovation and creativity within the industry. “It is good news that several new products have been entered, including cheeses enriched with squid ink, activated charcoal and truffle sauce, and Halloumi presenting itself as a Braailoumi. It is also good news that 13 “new” manufacturers entered for the first time this year.”

The championships’ 75 judges, ranging from dairy technologists to cheese retailers to chefs, this year named 101 products as SA Champions. Only sixteen products were honoured with the prestigious Qualité mark of excellence (full list of the crème de la crème below).

“This year’s results once again reflect healthy competition among larger manufacturers and smaller entrepreneurs,” says Ehlers. “Congratulations to Parmalat and Lancewood who both received three Qualité awards.”

Agri-Expo expresses its appreciation to the partners of the Qualité Award Gala Dinner for their commitment to the development of the SA dairy industry: Synercore, Woolworths, Santam Agriculture, Lake Foods, Condio, MANE, Guth, the Milk Producers’ Organisation (MPO), The Dairy Mail, ORCHEM and Octofin.

THE 2019 QUALITÉ WINNERS ARE:

Company Product
1 Belnori Boutique Cheesery St Francis of Ashisi
2 Parmalat SA Woolworths Matured Gouda 10 months
3 Parmalat SA Woolworths Extra Matured Cheddar 12 months
4 Parmalat SA Président Extra Matured Cheddar – 12 months
5 Lancewood Medium Fat Plain Cream Cheese
6 Lancewood Mascarpone
7 Lancewood Double Cream Vanilla Flavoured Yoghurt
8 Clover SA Tulip Salted Butter
9 Clover SA Feta – Tub
10 Fair Cape Dairies Woolworths Chocolate Mousse Dessert
11 Fair Cape Dairies Lunchbox Mixed Berry Dairy Snack
12 Ladismith Cheese Company Salted Butter
13 Rhodes Food Group Woolworths Mascarpone Duetto – Fig & Pecan Nut
14 Klein River Cheese Havarti
15 De Pekelaar Boerenkaas Jonk
16 Klippiesveld Kaas Chèvre Balls with Garlic and Herbs

Click here to download the full results or contact Agri-Expo for more information at +27 (0)21 975 4440 or cheese@agriexpo.co.za.

Dairy lovers will be able to taste many of these outstanding products at the SA Cheese Festival held from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 April 2019 at Sandringham outside Stellenbosch. Visit www.cheesefestival.co.za for more information.