How a Mars bar revolutionized the cheese industry for small and medium cheese manufacturers
Malcolm Avison, Founder of Vantage House
The rise of innovative artisan cheeses in supermarkets
Wax-coated cheese has a long and rich history in the UK and Ireland. The tradition of wax-coating cheese dates back to the 17th century, when cheese was often coated in wax to protect it during transportation and storage.
While the same is true today, the current emphasis is branding and consumer appeal, with supermarkets leading the way in demanding innovation. However, through the availability of low-cost, highly efficient cheese waxing machines, I am pleased that wonderful innovative artisan cheeses have joined the products of the large corporate cheesemakers on supermarket shelves through the availability of low-cost, highly efficient cheese waxing machines.
Automatic waxing machines transform the labor-intensive, slow hand dipping process into cheeses-per-minute automation, giving small and medium-sized cheese manufacturers a competitive advantage against corporate cheesemakers.
If you can put chocolate on a Mars bar – can you put a wax coating around a cheese?
Automatic waxing machines’ origins date back to the 1990s when Ilchester Cheese approached me at a chocolate machinery exhibition and asked, “…if you can put chocolate on a Mars bar – can you put a wax coating around a cheese?”
While this sounded like a simple transition, the execution proved more of a challenge. I forwarded the question to our manufacturer of chocolate coating machines, Chocoma. Chocoma provided their exceptional engineering creativity to produce the first machines that did just what Ilchester Cheese was asking for – a compact machine to thoroughly coat a 200gm Cheddar Cheese “truckle” in one pass!
Innovative waxing machines continue to transform the cheese industry
Since then, we at Vantage House have installed and commissioned 50 waxing machines throughout the UK and Ireland, with several companies buying two or more additions as their sales grew. As a result, we have successfully commissioned units handling many different cheese sizes and formats ranging from “small 20gm Christmas decorations” through “Coke Can” size and shape, “1kg Rugby Ball”, and even 5kg “Truckles.”
In meeting these challenges, the original machine has steadily evolved, and ChocoMa introduced innovations in many areas while keeping the essential machine cost in line with the original, together with the original simplicity and robustness of operation.
The cost-effectiveness of the machine speaks for itself, and the sustainable figure of 70+ units processed per minute is worth noticing. The interchangeable color options open new markets where a wide range of cheese types are instantly identifiable, lending them new marketing and branding opportunities even for the smaller Artisan cheese producer.
“It has been a great joy to see how small cheese artisans have grown their businesses with automatic waxing without compromising the mix in sizes and formats.”
Malcolm Avison, Founder of Vantage House
The story about cheese waxing
The history of cheese wax dates back to the 17th century in the United Kingdom and Ireland. During that era, cheese production was primarily localized on farms, and the cheeses needed to be transported to markets in towns and cities. They were often enveloped in wax to safeguard the cheeses during transit and storage.
The application of wax served several vital purposes. Firstly, it acted as a protective barrier against harmful bacteria, dust, and moisture that could compromise the quality of the cheeses. This was especially crucial during extended periods of transportation, where the cheeses had to remain fresh and unaltered. Secondly, the wax coating facilitated even cheese maturation by maintaining the appropriate moisture levels and shielding the cheeses from excessive drying.
In the early days, cheese waxing was a labor-intensive process, typically carried out by hand, which proved to be time-consuming and resource-intensive. However, as time progressed, machinery was developed to automate the waxing of cheeses, rendering the process more efficient and economically viable for dairies and producers.
Presently, wax-coated cheeses are famous and can be found in supermarkets and specialty cheese shops worldwide. Although waxing cheese is predominantly utilized by small and medium-sized artisanal cheese producers, it retains a significant role in the cheese manufacturing industry, ensuring the protection and presentation of cheeses to consumers.