Monday, 22 October 2018 Sydney

Barossa Valley Cheese Company Expands With Regional Development Fund Grant::

Three years ago, people were lining up outside Victoria McClurg’s cheese-tasting venue at Angaston because they couldn’t fit into the premises.

Others looked at the crowd at the Barossa Valley Cheese Company and returned later. Ms McClurg doesn't know how many drove away in frustration and perhaps never came back.

The situation forced Ms McClurg to embark on a $700,000 expansion that transformed both the cheese-tasting premises and the production cellar. She says a $200,000 Regional Development Fund grant accelerated a process necessary for her business to meet increasing demand for its cheese and the cheese-tasting experience.

Barossa Valley Cheese Company now has premises three times the size of the original footprint, and production has diversified from the early focus on soft cheeses to include semi-matured varieties. Production now reaches between 8,000 and 10,000 litres a week, and there is room to make more.

Employment has more than doubled to reach 10.5 FTEs in two years.

Visitors in individual parties or tour groups can learn how to match cheese with local wine – or, more unusually, with whisky or tea.

“We’d outgrown the visitor space and our production facilities,” Ms McClurg said. “With the support of the grant we've expanded our premises, our production and our staff.

“We’re now offering innovative opportunities for visitors that we weren’t able to provide before, which brings people to our business and contributes to the regional community. We’re able to meet the needs of our existing demand pool, and diversify into different products.

“And we can grow. We planned these facilities to cater for future growth.”

She insists her business will remain as “authentically regional” as when she founded it in 2003. Milk continues to be sourced from the local Nietschke family and will always be “100 per cent local”.

“We are all about the region and keeping cultures alive by bringing our heroes to the table,” Ms McClurg said. “The Nietschke family are just that. They enable us to use 100 per cent Barossa cows’ milk for the authenticity and integrity of our flagship products.”

She said she and her artisan peers are benefiting from an increasing preference for artisan food.

“More people want food that is interesting and authentic, and which they can identify as being locally produced,” she said. “But there is also the challenge of competing in a market in which there are many more options coming in from overseas, which are heavily subsidised and may be mass produced.

“As producers in South Australia, we have to focus on doing what we do to produce excellent produce, and to educate consumers at our cellar and through interesting marketing about the value of that.

“We want to run a good, profitable and viable business that’s here in the long term.”