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Biggest dairy competition in Africa celebrates 185th year

Qualité-beoordeling by SA Suiwelkampioenskappe vir Die Burger Netwerk24

Johan Ehlers (Hoof Uitvoerende Beampte, Agri-Expo), Kobus Mulder (hoofbeoordelaar), Steven Bullin (internasionale kaaskenner) en Marlene van der Westhuizen (glanssjef en kookboekskrywer)

Biggest dairy competition in Africa celebrates 185th year

What do you get when you put your five senses, 945 dairy products, 83 dairy producers, a temperature of 18 degrees Celcius and 84 judges together under one roof? The biggest dairy competition in Africa – the Qualité judging of the South African Dairy Championships, taking place today, on Thursday 22 February 2018, at GrandWest in Cape Town. The championships, the oldest in Africa, has been presented by Agri-Expo since 1834 and celebrates its 185th year of existence this year.

A growing industry

The competition is a logistical masterpiece – this year 945 products, the most ever, were entered. There are 10 categories that include more than 100 classes for end products in the processing line of the dairy industry. The  categories are cheese, butter, yoghurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, cultured and flavoured milk, dairy deserts, dairy dips, fresh and UHT milk (that was added last year), and cream (created as a new category this year). Not bad for a 185th year old who as a youngster only included imitations of Dutch and English cheeses.

“Although this is the oldest dairy championships in Africa, we keep up with the needs of the industry through regular consultations,” says Johan Ehlers, Chief Executive Officer of Agri-Expo “The championships is supported wholeheartedly by the industry, with 83 big and small manufacturers entering this year, of which 15 for the first time. Previous participants entered products in other classes, which indicates growth in product development of the existing manufacturers.”

From international experts to foodies

Products are transported from all over the country, as well as from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, to Cape Town in the week of the competition, with great caution due to cold chain challenges. Thereafter it takes several hours to package products anonymously for the blind evaluation. On the day of the Qualité judging preparations start early morning to get everything ready to meet the strict requirements for the judging of a dairy competition of this magnitude. The Market Hall at GrandWest is transformed into what can be described as one huge fridge – a room of 1200 square meters where the temperature must be held constant at 18 degrees Celcius to ensure optimum quality of products during judging.

The team of judges has a very high level of expertise and resort under the expert guidance of chief judge and well-known international dairy judge, Kobus Mulder.  The championships is one of the only in the world that uses five judges per category to achieve a more accurate result. The judges’ comments are shared with participants with the aim to improve product quality, encourage innovation and promote excellence in the dairy industry.

The championships makes provision for continuity by giving younger judges the opportunity to participate.  Some are former participants in the prestigeous Burgundy Cheese Makers Exchange Programme, a bilateral agreement between the Western Cape Government and the Regional Government of Burgundy, which was co-ordinated by Agri-Expo. These former students today hold senior positions in the industry and plough their expertise back in this manner.

In addition to industry experts and trained sensory evaluators, well-known chefs, food personalities and journalists are invited to join in the judging process. This year’s competition was a first for celebrity chef and food author Marlene van der Westhuizen, who declared it was “utterly exciting to experience so many South African dairy products of quality together as a whole.”

The dairy lover benefits too

The competition does not only have a significant impact on the dairy industry; it also benefits the consumer standing in front of the fridge with the almost impossible task of choosing the best dairy product – do you base your choice on price, brand, packaging, prior tasting experiences, all of the preceding or just a random decision? Thanks to the Qualité judging of the SA Dairy Championships the guess work is taken out of the equation. It is as easy as looking out for the Qualité and SA Champion stickers that are proudly placed on qualifying products in retail shops.

According to Ehlers, the ultimate aim of the championships is to promote excellence in the dairy industry. “The Qualité mark is recognised by the industry as the only mark of excellence for dairy products in South Africa. The competition has become the benchmark for producers to measure themselves against each other. The public can thus rely on the Qualité mark of excellence as an honest and accessible tool to ensure they can enjoy the best dairy products on offer in South Africa,” Ehlers says.

The SA Champions (the top products in the 106 championship classes), Qualité awards (only awarded to products of exceptional quality) and Product of the Year (allocated by a panel of five specialists) will be announced at the prestigeous Agri-Expo Qualité Awards Dinner on Friday 23 March 2018 at GrandWest in Cape Town. The Milk Producers Organisation (MPO) and their publishing platform AgriConnect is a partner of this year’s SA Dairy Championships. For more information, visit  www.cheesesa.co.za or www.agriexpo.co.za or contact Agri-Expo on admin@agriexpo.co.za or 021-9754440.

Grootste suiwelkompetisie in Afrika vier 185ste jaar

Wat kry jy wanneer jy jou vyf sintuie, 945 suiwelprodukte, 83 suiwelvervaardigers, ‘n temperatuur van 18 grade Celcius en 84 suiwelbeoordelaars onder een dak saamvoeg? Die grootste suiwelkompetisie in Afrika – die Qualité-beoordeling van die Suid-Afrikaanse Suiwelkampioenskappe – wat vandag, op Donderdag 22 Februarie 2017, by GrandWest in Kaapstad plaasvind. Dié kampioenskappe, die oudste in Afrika, word reeds sedert 1834 deur Agri-Expo aangebied en vier vanjaar sy 185ste bestaansjaar.

‘n Groeiende industrie

Die kompetisie is ‘n logistieke meesterstuk – vanjaar is 945 produkte, die meeste ooit, ingeskryf. Daar is tien kategorieë wat meer as 100 klasse vir eindprodukte in die prosesseringslyn van die suiwelbedryf insluit. Dié kategorieë is kaas, botter, jogurt, maaskaas, roomys, gegeurde en aangesuurde melk, suiwelnagereg, suiweldoopsouse, vars en UHT-melk (wat verlede jaar bygevoeg is), en room (wat vanjaar as kategorie geskep is). Nie sleg vir ‘n 185-jarige wat in haar kinderskoene slegs uit nabootsings van Hollandse en Engelse kase bestaan het nie!

“Alhoewel dit die oudste suiwelkampioenskappe in Suid-Afrika is, hou ons tred met behoeftes deur gereelde konsultasies met die bedryf,” sê Johan Ehlers, Hoof Uitvoerende Beampte van Agri-Expo. “Die kampioenskappe word heelhartig deur die bedryf ondersteun met 83 groot én klein suiwelvervaardigers wat hierdie jaar ingeskryf het, waarvan 15 vir die eerste keer. Vorige deelnemers het vanjaar vir die eerste keer produkte in ander klasse ingeskryf, wat dui op ‘n groei in produkontwikkeling van bestaande vervaardigers.”

Van internasionale kenners tot foodies

Produkte word in die week van die kompetisie van reg oor die land, asook van Mosambiek, Zimbabwe en Malawi, met groot omsigtigheid weens koueketting-uitdagings, na die Kaap vervoer. Hierna neem dit etlike ure om produkte anoniem te verpak vir die blinde evaluering. Op die dag van die Qualité-beoordeling woel dit al douvoordag om alles in gereedheid te bring vir die streng vereistes vir die beoordeling van ‘n suiwelkompetisie van hierdie omvang. Die Marksaal by GrandWest word omtower in wat beskryf kan word as ‘n yslike yskas – ‘n vertrek van 1200 vierkante meter waarin die temperatuur konstant teen 18 grade Celcius gehou word om optimale gehalte van produkte tydens beoordeling te verseker.

Die span beoordelaars beskik oor ‘n besonderse hoë vlak van kundigheid en staan onder die vaardige leiding van hoofbeoordelaar Kobus Mulder, bekende internasionale suiwelbeoordelaar. Die kampioenskappe is van die enigste in die wêreld wat vyf beoordelaars per kategorie gebruik ten einde ‘n meer akkurate uitslag te bekom. Die beoordelaars se kommentare word ná die kampioenskappe aan die deelnemers gekommunikeer om produkkwaliteit te verbeter, vernuwing aan te moedig en uitnemendheid in die suiwelbedryf te bevorder.

Die kampioenskappe maak voorsiening vir kontinuïteit deurdat jonger beoordelaars geleentheid kry om deel te neem, waaronder vorige deelnemers aan die Boergondië-kaasmakersuitruilprogram, ‘n bilaterale ooreenkoms tussen die Wes-Kaapse Regering en die Streeksregering van Boergondië, wat deur Agri-Expo gekoördineer is.  Hierdie oudstudente beklee vandag senior posisies in die bedryf en ploeg so hul kundigheid terug.

Bo en behalwe bedryfskenners en opgeleide sensoriese evalueerders word bekende sjefs, kospersoonlikhede en -joernaliste genooi om aan die beoordelingsproses deel te neem. Vanjaar was ‘n eerste vir die glanssjef en kosboekskrywer Marlene van der Westhuizen, wat verklaar het dat dit “uiters opwindend is om soveel Suid-Afrikaanse suiwelprodukte van topgehalte as ‘n geheel te kan ervaar”.

Jan Alleman die Suiwelliefhebber baat ook

Die kompetisie het nie net ‘n beduidende impak op die suiwelindustrie nie; dit baat ook die verbruiker wat voor die yskas staan met die byna onmoontlike taak om die beste suiwelproduk te kies – baseer jy jou keuse op prys, handelsmerk, verpakking, vorige proe-ervarings, dit alles tesame, of net ‘n lukrake probeerslag? Danksy die Qualité-beoordeling van die SA Suiwelkampioenskappe word hierdie raaiwerk vir die verbruiker uitgeskakel. Dis so maklik soos om uit te kyk vir die Qualité- en SA Kampioen-plakkers wat met trots op kwalifiserende produkte in die kleinhandel geplaas word.

Volgens Ehlers is die uitsluitlike doel van die suiwelkampioenskappe om uitnemendheid in die suiwelbedryf te bevorder. “Die Qualité-merk word deur die bedryf erken as die enigste merk van gehalte vir suiwelprodukte in Suid-Afrika. Die kompetisie het die maatstaf geword waarvolgens produsente hulself teen mekaar meet. Die publiek kan dus die Qualité-merk vertrou as ‘n eerlike en toeganklike hulpmiddel om te verseker dat hulle die beste suiwelprodukte wat ons land bied, kan geniet,” sê Ehlers.

Die SA Kampioene (die topprodukte in die 106 kampioenskapklasse), die Qualité-toekennings (wat slegs aan produkte van besonderse hoë gehalte toegeken word) en die Produk van die Jaar (aangewys deur ‘n paneel van vyf kundiges) word tydens die Qualité-toekenningsdinee op 23 Maart 2018 by GrandWest in Kaapstad aangekondig. Die projek word vanjaar deur die Melk Produsente Vereniging (MPO) en sy publikasieplatform AgriConnect as ‘n vennoot ondersteun. Belangstellendes kan www.cheesesa.co.za en www.agriexpo.co.za besoek, of Agri-Expo by 021 975 4440 of cheese@agriexpo.co.za kontak.