Callum MacInnes lives on the island of Orkney off the north coast of Scotland and produces two smoked cheeses for Tesco. Here, he speaks to us about his company, The Island Smokery, and the cheese smoking process.
How is The Island Smokery cheese made?
We take a 14-month matured Orkney Cheddar then smoke it using a specialist ash wood recycled from a local craftsman who makes traditional Scottish bodhran drums. This eliminates his waste product whilst also giving our cheese a unique flavour. We smoke our light Cheddar for four hours and our dark-smoke variety for 12 hours. We’ve spent the past few years perfecting the taste.
How has supplying 45 Tesco stores made a difference to your business?
It means producing an extra 10-15 tonnes of cheese each year. To meet this increased capacity, we have invested in a new smoker, our fourth. We also have plans to install a further one, or possibly take on two extra members of staff. This may not sound a lot but on a small island such as Orkney this really is a big deal. We think the future is quite bright for us and it’s especially great considering the recession we have been in.
How did the relationship with Tesco come about?
One of the Tesco buyers tasted our Orkney Smoked Cheddar at the Royal Highland Show and it went from there. The local sourcing team at Tesco have been instrumental in helping me get the project started.
How do customers know that the cheese they are buying is good quality?
The cheese we smoke is made by the Orkney Cheese Company, using milk from local Orkney cows. The good weather and fresh air on the island make a difference to milk yield, and, I think, to the taste of the cheese. Since introducing our new ash-smoked variety we have won lots of awards, including silver and bronze in the same category at the World Cheese awards 2010, so people will know that they are tasting a high-quality product. Our cheese is also SALSA-approved – the Safe and Local Supplier Approval scheme – which is a rigorous food-safety certification programme.