A SCOTTISH maker of buffalo mozzarella has secured its first multiple listing from a major grocer, as it underlined its ambition for a locally produced product to compete with Italian cheese imports.
The groundbreaking deal for The Buffalo Farm in Fife means its product is now on sale in over 100 Aldi stores across Scotland. It comes after founder Steve Mitchell, a sixth-generation farmer, raised £850,000 through a crowdfunding investment to launch the market last year.
Mr Mitchell decided to raise buffaloes as he looked for a ‘unique selling point’, believing Scotland already had many farmers excelling in the production of beef and other meats. He was inspired by his uncle, who built a “tremendous reputation” for the sausage and bacon brand Puddledub Pork. Having bought his first buffalo in Wales, Mr Mitchell now owns the largest herd of water buffaloes in Scotland. He has over 500 grass-fed buffaloes that roam freely on the hills of Clentrie Farm. Most come from Mediterranean countries like Italy.
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The award-winning mozzarella made on the farm is now on sale in Aldi stores as part of the grocer’s Specially Selected range.
Mr Mitchell said the connection to the discounter stemmed from his friendship with an Irish farmer, who had gone into producing buffalo mozzarella and sold it through Aldi there. Mozzarella made from buffalo milk in Ireland now sells better than the equivalent product imported from Italy.
“Evidence suggests in Ireland that if we give people access to this fresh, local produce, sales will increase,” Mr Mitchell said. “They have changed the eating habits of the Irish, to some extent. That’s why I think Aldi has been so keen to support us here in Scotland.
While the product has only been on sale since June 1, Mr Mitchell said “early signs are positive”, although he acknowledged buffalo mozzarella comes with a price premium. However, he emphasized his belief that it is a superior product to the cow’s milk equivalent. He said buffalo milk lends itself well to mozzarella because of its higher fat and protein content compared to cow’s milk. He noted that buffaloes can be milked into their teenage years, much longer than normal cows.
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Mr Mitchell aims to milk 100 of his herd twice a day. Part of the herd is made up of calves that must be reared and must reach the age of about two and a half years before they can be milked. Male calves are raised for the butchery side of the business.
“Because of the way we keep our buffaloes and the much lower yield, the product must have an additional price,” Mr Mitchell said. “It’s more than three times the price of the cow’s milk equivalent at Aldi, but I really think it’s more than three times the quality. But it’s very good that I have this opinion – we have to see what the public will make of it [and] if the demand justifies us to stay on the shelves. As I learned from my early days at the Farmer’s Market, it’s easy to sell something once, it’s the repeats that are really, really important.
Mr Mitchell, who has appeared on TV shows such as the BBC’s Farming Life and Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word, hopes the listing will boost his aspirations to sell the product across the UK, as well as the UK. hospitality industry and export markets.
But he said the biggest challenge will ultimately be finding other dairy farms in Scotland to supply buffalo milk as demand for mozzarella grows.
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Mr Mitchell said: “Our factory has the capacity to produce five or six times the volume that we are now. We’ve been pretty ambitious with how we’ve set it up. But we’re so convinced that it’s such a great opportunity that it was the right thing to do – put the infrastructure in place so we can focus on building volume.
Graham Nicolson, group buying director at Aldi Scotland, said: “Scotland is home to some of the most dynamic food and drink producers in the world, and The Buffalo Farm is a great example of the exceptional innovation we are seeing. here in this country.
“Steve and his team have taken an extremely popular product, which has been around for generations, and found a way to make it Scottish, providing a fresher, full-flavored alternative.
“We are thrilled to be on this journey with them and to be the first supermarket in the world to bring Scottish buffalo mozzarella to shoppers.”