The following content originally appeared in issue 68 of Dairy Innovation, which you can subscribe to here.
Latteria Montello, the Italian owners of European soft cheese brand Nonno Nanni already has a presence in Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, Germany and more surprisingly Hong Kong and the US. Well known on the Italian cheese counter it has now set its sights on the UK. Claire Phoenix interviews head of marketing and communication Silvia Lazzarin about this ambitious and well organised plan.
Nonno Nanni is a third-generation, family owned business that employs 200 staff, eleven of whom are related to the company’s founder, Giovanni Lazzarin.
For the first time, Nonno Nanni will be available in the UK. To facilitate this, owner Latteria Montello has established a new distribution partnership with the fine foods importer, AJA Portfolio brands to bring a select range to Britain.
Where does Nonno Nanni sit in the Italian cheese market?
We are privileged to have an incredibly loyal following at home in Italy and our reach is steadily extending. Generations of families are familiar with the Nonno Nanni brand. During our 69 year history, we have established a 25.2% share of the quality Italian Stracchino cheese market by value and a 20.0% share by volume (data AC Nielsen, April 2016 – crescenze and stracchino Italian market). Each year, Latteria Montello’s factory processes in excess of 60,000 tonnes of fresh milk.
Nonno Nanni has a well-established distribution network throughout Italy that delivers to both specialist independent retailers, as well as large scale supermarkets. Over time, our presence has grown in a number of neighbouring European countries. Part of the product’s universal appeal is its versatility – customers throughout Europe and beyond are looking for quality, convenience and adaptability. Our cheeses fulfil many functions from being a quick snack, a sandwich filling, or an ingredient in numerous starters, salads, main courses or desserts. It is also a tasty alternative to cream in many savoury dishes.
As the export market has continued to develop, we decided that the time is right to bring a selection of products from the Nonno Nanni range to the UK. Soft, fresh cheeses such as Stracchino and Robiola which have a rich heritage and we believe that there is scope to introduce authentic, classic Italian recipes to Britain.
What does the range comprise?
When my grandfather started his cheesemaking business in 1947, he only had two simple wood burning boilers on which to heat the milk he sourced from a local farmer. Today, things are a little different.
The range that is being introduced to the UK market has been carefully considered to offer the broadest appeal and offering dairy innovation as well as less familiar authentic Italian cheeses.
Stracchino – This is one of the most consumed of all soft, cows’ milk cheeses in Italy. It has a very soft, creamy texture, a mild, delicate flavour and no preservatives. Made by combining locally sourced, pasteurised dairy milk and cream with a unique starter culture that contains two billion live milk enzymes per gram. The result is a fresh natural product with a 24 day shelf life and a pack size of 125g.
Robiola – A classic fresh, soft airy cheese with a light, creamy consistency and an intense, full flavour. Robiola has a 45 day shelf life and was a gold medal winner at the International Cheese Awards 2014 and 2015. Also available in a lactose free version – Winner of 2016 Product of the Year (Cheese) – Food Awards (Italy). It sells in a pack size of 100g.
Caprino made with cows’ milk – This is a beautifully white, looser textured, soft fresh cows’ milk cheese. Caprino takes its goat-y name from the traditional cylinder shape into which it is formed. Creamy and intensely flavourful, this can quickly be adapted into antipasti or summer salad dishes. Caprino has a 45 day shelf life. Also available in Lactose Free, its pack size is 80g.
Squaquerello – this cheese is famously smooth, with a deliciously melting consistency, fresh and natural taste; and no preservatives. This soft cheese contains a higher level of starter cultures to deliver extra flavour. Spectacular served with vegetables or simply eaten from the spoon, Squaquerello also adds creaminess to risotto or pasta, or can be used in cheesecake preparation. It has a 24 day shelf life and comes in a 125g pack size.
What is the secret to this brand’s success?
There are two key factors that have helped to secure the longevity of the business. Firstly, constantly maintaining the quality of the raw materials we use and how they are processed. Secondly, the business always considers the future and has continued to invest in new technology – so that we can introduce new innovations both operationally and in terms of NPD.
There are technical advances in the world of food production taking place all the time. This doesn’t mean you have to turn your back on traditional values. Rather, by embracing new developments you honour your forebears and protect the legacy that they have successfully built. You simply can’t stand still. All businesses must adapt in order to survive and grow. Nanni’s small business has grown into an advanced dairy company, equipped with the latest and most sophisticated production systems.
Nonno Nanni has always been forward looking – we’ve been credited with producing an eco-friendly Stracchino. These green credentials are based on offsetting our CO2 emissions, using clean electricity from renewable sources and a range of environmental initiatives.
What ingredients and methods are used?
Milk is fundamental to our products and we maintain close relationships with our farmers that supply the dairy to ensure high standards are upheld. The milk’s nutritional properties are essential; therefore the raw ingredient is carefully selected even before arriving at the dairy. At Nonno Nanni, every process is precisely analysed throughout production with more than 200 checks per day to guarantee the quality of the finished products.
Under specific, controlled conditions, Nonno Nanni’s living lactic ferments achieve extremely high concentrations, in excess of two billion per gram: the specifics of the starter culture that is used, is one of the reasons why Nonno Nanni’s Stracchino tastes so good.
What upgrades have been made in terms of packaging?
Despite running a high-tech manufacturing operation, our Stracchino for the delicatessen counter is still packed by hand. This is not only a commercial choice but demonstrates the exceptional care we put into the production of our cheeses. All the other products are machine packed. We focus very much on the packaging of our products: it’s an important part of our R&D work: we continuously aim to satisfy the market in terms of finding the right balance between the pack that best suits our products and preserves their characteristics and consumers’ need for convenience, for example with stay-fresh, sealable tubs. Nonno Nanni spends time each day planning developments to increase the recyclability of our packaging: the inner tray of our cheeses is 100% recyclable, so reducing the environmental impact.
Where is the brand expansion happening?
Currently, the main markets where we are focusing on brand expansion are the UK, Austria and Belgium.
Where is the plant and how many lines does it run?
The factory is based in the heart of the Veneto region, in a rural town 40km to the northwest of Venice. The manufacturing unit is actually right next to our ancestral family home. We use one of the largest manufacturing plants for soft cheeses in Europe but it’s the irreplaceable skill of the cheese-maker that is important for producing good cheese. Once milk processing is programmed, according to where the milk comes from and the weather and seasonal conditions, the cheese-maker guides and oversees the development of cheese manufacture. So, despite using cutting edge technology and manufacturing processes, we still maintain the artisan quality of bygone days.
What is next for Nonno Nanni?
During the past couple of years the free from market has really started to mature, with a broader offering and general improvement in quality. One area that we identified as being under-represented was lactose free foods. At Nonno Nanni we have been quick to perfect our lactose free offering, recognising the potential for growth.
Our special production technique breaks down lactose into galactose and glucose. As a result, digestive intolerances are avoided, while great taste and other nutritional properties remain unchanged. The lactose free range has proved to be so successful on our home territory that Nonno Nanni collected Product of the Year Award (Cheese) in Italy’s annual Food Awards.
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