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Cheese kit maker wins deal for Danish stores

A Scottish woman who developed kits that allow people to make their own cheese has won an order to supply a Danish retailer after smashing the sales forecasts she set for her first year in business.

SAY CHEESE: Ailsa Proverbs of Big Cheese, who has developed a fast-selling cheese making kit on sale at Harrods. Picture: Stewart Attwood
SAY CHEESE: Ailsa Proverbs of Big Cheese, who has developed a fast-selling cheese making kit on sale at Harrods. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Ailsa Proverbs will spend next week finalising a Danish language edition of the instructions included with her Big Cheese Making Kit products ahead of their going on sale in Salling department stores.

The order should help Ms Proverbs maintain the momentum she has built up after assembling a client list that already includes big name operators in the UK like Selfridges and Harrods.

Around 35 retailers stock the kits. The 36-year-old Ms Proverbs says these allow people to make cheeses such as Mozzarella and Ricotta using only a few ingredients, including milk, rennet and citric acid.

Following a good response from shoppers in stores and on the web, Ms Proverbs is on course to sell around 6500 kits by the time she celebrates her first anniversary in business next month.

As she started the company with a plan to sell 2000 kits in the first year, Ms Proverbs said she was delighted by the sales figures it has achieved.

"I hadn't anticipated it at all," she said.

In addition to under-estimating potential UK sales, Ms Proverbs said she had been surprised by how popular the kits have been with tourists.

When she was promoting the kits in Selfridges' flagship store in London recently she noticed that they were generating strong interest among visitors to the UK.

"I've been surprised how many want to take them home as gifts," she said.

With retailers planning their orders for the key Christmas sales season, Ms Proverbs is preparing for a busy few weeks.

She plans to appoint a full time sales manager and a part-time administrator to help shoulder the workload at the firm, which has office space at the business incubation unit at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

"Every day is a different challenge," said the mother of two.

"It's great, it's really good fun."

While the strength of first year sales has come as a pleasant surprise, the marketing expert always had a strong belief that there would be good demand for kits that people could use to make cheese at home.

A longtime cheese lover, Ms Proverbs decided to investigate the practicalities of making her own while watching chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall make yoghurt on television.

She decided to go into kit production after winning rave reviews from friends for a soft cheese that she discovered she could make in less than hour following a recipe and using components she found on the web.

To help keep things simple, she avoided varieties like Cheddar that need maturing.

Ms Proverbs is about to add a kit for making soft Scottish Crowdie cheese to the range.

The company has attracted the attention of business development experts as well as cheese fans.

It was admitted to the high growth programme operated by Scottish Enterprise just four months after its launch.

The kits are priced at around £20 each.

Production is out-sourced to Haven Products, a social enterprise based in Inverness.

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