White cheese reimagined

White cheese reimagined


Lebanese dairy products were on full display at this year’s HORECA trade show. Our favorite traditional products were transformed into new culinary delights, all of which would rival any gourmet offering. Here’s what we found

Hospitality New ME spoke with Nada Barakat, national project coordinator for UNIDO to find out more about the initiative that led to the creation of HORECA Lebanon’s White Cheese Pavilion – a collection of bespoke Lebanese dairy products curated by UNIDO. Also in this feature are interviews with Lebanese chefs, Youssef Akiki and Pierre Abi Hayla, who were behind some of this year’s most mouth-watering cheese creations that, based on overwhelmingly positive feedback, appear to have set a trend for cheese manufacturers throughout the country.

“Since 2011, UNIDO has been supporting the agro-industrial sector through the CELEP project by helping local micro and small industries to cope with the crisis and teach unemployed and affected communities market-oriented technical skills. Through the three phases of CELEP, 68 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and 20 agricultural cooperatives were directly supported with specialized equipment, civil works and technical assistance. In partnership with the Ministry of Industry and in the framework of the Italian Cooperation funded project ‘Supporting the Development of Selected Agrofood Value Chains’, UNIDO provided direct technical assistance to selected agro-processing micro, SMEs and agricultural cooperatives (COOPs), specifically in the dairy sector. Additional support came by way of an international industrial designer and local renowned chefs. The goal was to assist in developing innovations to break the barrier of traditional Lebanese cheese making, by diversifying the available local dairy products, reducing the use of salt, increasing shelf-life and making dairy products more appealing to children as an alternative to confectionery.”

Nada Barakat
National Project Coordinator

Chef Youssef Akiki
MP of Kitchen Backstage
& Executive Chef  

“The collaboration between UNIDO, the Lebanese Ministry of Industry and the local dairy sector is aimed at assisting new and small producers to start/grow their businesses, which they would have been unable to do on their own. It also is my understanding that the support lent was on all levels and our contribution was of the creative variety. We worked with a number of producers whom we met on an individual basis to learn what product categories they would like to grow. On that basis, we created new signature items using the ingredients they offer. As a result, these manufacturers are either in the process or are already mass producing these novelty items. Here, I have to add that the HORECA White Root Cheese Pavilion was a great testbed that enabled the owners and operators to get real-time firsthand feedback from their target audience and that was quite exciting for all of us. Best of all, some of these lesser-known producers immediately gained the visibility they have been working long to earn and that will definitely go a long way in ensuring future growth.”

“We had the opportunity to sit with a number of relatively small dairy manufacturers and discuss in detail their concerns and requirements for further growing their product lines. After studying the various products these producers would like to highlight, we began experimenting. We also focused on creating, introducing and promoting new kinds of dairy products that hold great appeal to children, thereby accommodating consumers’ increasingly growing demand for healthy eating choices. What was interesting was the fact that these producers have been harboring a desire to innovate for some time but did not have the knowhow to do so, until now. On a separate note, I got to experiment and work with products that I would not normally use and in so doing, gained new insight which helped me to broaden my abilities. The next big step for the producers is to retrofit their factories with the required machines and ensure that the entire process is optimized to allow for mass market production.”

Chef Pierre Abi Hayla
Pastry Chef consultant & Owner
Le Noir Atelier Du Chocolat

AL Akhdar Dairy Products – Saida
Producer: Alaa Al Akhdar
Star product: Cheese with makdous

Al Jarra Dairy – South Lebanon
Producer: Youssef Mrad
Star product: Flavored cow labneh boules

Emm El Khayrat Dairy – Jbeil
Producer: Marie Georges Hatem
Star product: Drinkable yogurt with turmeric

Fattoria del Sole – Mount Lebanon
Producer: Afaf Bejjani
Star product: Mozzarella Di Bufala

Fresco S.A.L. – Beirut
Producer: Yvonne Frangi
Star product: Halloum Baladi with cranberries

Go Baladi – Bekaa
Producer: Sami Hajjar
Star product: Goat labneh with sweet flavors

Le Bon Lait – Aydamoun
Producer: Fouad Abdo
Star product: Mini Shanklish

Rohban Dairies – Zgharta
Producer: Mohsen Rohban
Star product: Laban

Skaff Dairy Farm – Bekaa
Producer: Camille Skaff
Star product: Labneh Light

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