The Artisans of Goat Cheese
Founded by Bruce and Sharon Vandenberg in 1989, the couple was looking for a business opportunity that would allow both of them to spend more time working from their own home.
Sharon who has a diploma in food service and Bruce in Agricultural Business combined their skills and passion to start a goatherd and cheese plant. Their first goats were purchased in 1987 and the cheese plant was built in the summer of 1989. Sharon took cheese making and dairy courses at a local university while Bruce invested in Dutch cheese making equipment, allowing them to produce their first batch of cheese later that year.
By 1991 the herd numbered around 130 animals and since then the market has expanded tremendously, allowing the Vandenbergs to increase their herd to over 1200 milking does. Additional goat milk is purchased locally from 45 family-run farms within Ontario, Canada and all partners follow strict procedures that share the Vandenberg’s belief in humane practices in regard to their goats.
Presently, Mariposa Dairy’s Cheese products are shipped all across Canada through Finica Fine Foods and through the Atalanta Group in the USA.
Their partnership with Finica Fine Foods has resulted in their cheese products being showcased across all major retailers and food stores. In The USA, the cheese is sold in Trader Joes, Wegmans and Costco.
Their solid relationships with their partners has allowed the distribution process to be both hassle-free and in line with the founder’s vision of producing fantastic artisanal cheeses for a large market without sacrificing taste or quality.
Mariposa Dairy also relies heavily on its partners for their marketing and branding, and with the backing of their partners, the Mariposa Brand has grown significantly over the years allowing them to penetrate their markets with great success.
When asked what really sets Mariposa Dairy apart from its competitors, General Manager Rick Glab mentions several important factors.
Aside from the fresh air, water and fertile land of beautiful Southern Ontario that results in high quality goat milk, the Vandenberg’s factory has a unique manufacturing process called the megapress. The megapress is a process that is much gentler on the cheese, which results in a clean and unique tasting product that customer’s both can distinguish and appreciate.
The team’s innovation within their factory and their use of high quality ingredients has garnered much critical acclaim as well as award recognition from Canadian, American and British Cheese Associations. “Winning awards and being recognized in our industry has had a significant impact on our brand as well as our end-users, who may be more inclined to try goat’s cheese when they hear of the accolades,” says Glab.
In a company that promotes excellence in every aspect of their business, awards are greatly appreciated and give each member of the company great pride says Glab. “We as a team pride ourselves in being a premium quality producer so being honored by our industry provides with both recognition and value,” he says.
“Bruce and Sharon have set a great example within our company of what excellence is and should be, this has allowed our team to continue pushing the boundaries in search of the best possible methods and products,” says Glab.
Producing a continuously successful and high quality product means that every step of product is vital, from sourcing the milk to aging the cheeses, the team continuously strives for excellence in every aspect of the business.
According to Gap, an important part of the process is keeping the goats healthy with a healthy and well-balanced diet, allows the herd to product top quality milk, which results in their awarding cheeses.
Throughout all of these processes from packing to shipment, the quality control staff examines and checks every step to ensure it meets the dairy’s high standards: checking moisture, fruit content and coverage as well as gaining third party perspective in regards to quality.
An Exciting Future
The Vandenberg’s recently announced their plan to purchase a new state of the art facility in Ontario, which will be in use by 2015. Besides increasing their capacity, the team aims to incorporate more technical methods into their production process by bringing in more qualified people on board, creating jobs and the cementing their reputation as the innovative cheese makers.