Lebanon-based artisanal cheese factory Fattoria Del Sole is planning to export its products range to the GCC, revealed Jad Rizk, chief development officer in an interview with HN.
The factory was established in 1997 with two Italian partners and is located in Araya Hills, Mount Lebanon. “Our unique Buffalo Ranch which was imported from Italy is established in the Bekaa Valley,” said Rizk.
Fattoria Del Sole is the only artisanal factory that produces fresh Italian cheese in the Middle East with the only Buffalo Ranch in the MENA region producing the exclusive ‘Mozzarella Di Bufala’, which is a Fresh Mozzarella made from water buffalo milk, and this is the authentic fresh mozzarella, according to Rizk. “Our specialty is that all our fresh cheeses are made from 100 percent fresh milk daily with no additives.”
The factory produces over 17 kinds of Italian cheese, including burrata, ricotta, mozzarella di bufala, fresh mozzarella, cherry mozzarella, affumicata (smoked cheese), provolone, 18 year aged provolone, and Gorgonzola, among others.
Fattoria Del Sole products are sold throughout Lebanon in supermarkets, mini markets, hotels as well as restaurants. “We started exporting to Saudi Arabia,” Rizk revealed. “For the last 20 years, our production capability was 30 tons of fresh cheese per month, but this year we expanded the factory with state of the art Italian machinery and our new production capabilities reaches 90 tons of fresh cheese per month,” he added.
Asking him about awareness regarding premium cheeses in Lebanon, Rizk explained that people still prefer to purchase and consume products coming from abroad, which are usually stored, rather than eating locally made but fresh cheeses. “In Europe for example, buffalo mozzarella lovers refuse to eat a fresh mozzarella coming from outside the production area and stored for over three because it loses its wonderful fresh flavor fast and its color starts to change to yellow.” He added that many still prefer to use processed cheese because they are price-oriented. “Our 18 year aged provolone costs USD 250 per kilo, and some clients find it expensive.”
Following the factory’s expansion, the company started looking for distributors in the Gulf region, and it created a new concept “called ‘Mozzarella Factory’ Italian Cheese Store & Café and we are franchising it in the MENA region,” he said.
In Lebanon, the company distributes its products range through Dima S.a.l, and is searching for distributors in the Gulf after the factory’s expansion. “The most important thing is that products made in Lebanon are excluded from Gulf customs, which gives us an edge over any other products coming from Europe. We just signed an agreement with ‘CheeseCo’ to distribute in Qatar.”
He added: “Our 2019 plans are to partner with distributors all over the Gulf region to expand our exports, as well franchising Mozzarella Factory Italian Cheese Store & Café to the MENA region. If we succeed, we will have another expansion for 2020.”