Regina Olvera
Sierra Encantada

Avocado and Flowers for Award-Winning Cheeses

By Gabriela Mastache | Fri, 04/03/2020 - 16:12

Artisanal and local production is taking hold in the Mexican market, especially for foodstuffs, and consumers are responding well, says Regina Olvera, Founder of Sierra Encantada. “Consumers are increasingly demanding artisanal and local products. They value them more and demand to know that these products comply with good practices.”

Sierra Encantada, a Mexican goat farm in Morelos, caters to the new taste of Mexican consumers through the production of high-quality, artisanal goat-milk cheese. “Sierra Encantada was first created as a local family-based idea. However, we always strived to make a high-quality and healthy product,” says Olvera.

In addition to local and artisanal production, Sierra Encantada’s products comply with international standards. In fact, the farm has won four international prizes, three from the World Cheese Awards and one from the Great Taste Awards for its artisanal cajeta (goat-milk caramel). “Two of our winning cheeses have avocado and flowers, which are very Mexican elements and draw attention because of the color and their freshness. The other award-winning cheese is a more mature cheese,” Olvera says.

The company has expanded its production to other products, including cajeta, yoghurt and even soaps. “The idea is to not stop playing with goat’s milk, which is very versatile and can have multiple uses,” says Olvera. The farm is now designing new cheeses that incorporate local elements and ideas from different chefs rather than just producing traditional cheese. “Although the original idea was to make a traditional but high-quality cheese spread, we noticed that the cheese culture is growing in Mexico. There is great potential to portray the Mexican identity in our products.”

As with any other new product, Olvera says that convincing consumers to try Sierra Encantada’s products was a hard task. “Since all our products follow an artisanal production process, stores and restaurants asked us to have certifications and comply with packaging conditions. After we obtained them, we were able to commercialize them. However, the prizes we have won have boosted our reputation and this facilitated the commercialization process.”

Sierra Encantada is certified in Good Practices by SADER. “We comply with every certification and sanitary condition. We keep work notebooks and constantly monitor all the elements that take part in cheese production.”

While Sierra Encantada’s products might be internationally recognized, Olvera says their recognition in Mexico has benefited from a change in consumer attitude: consumers are now willing to try local products. “There is a commitment from producers to create a good product, but we are also seeing commitment from consumers. People are investing in high-quality products because of health, trends and recommendations.” Restaurant chefs are also playing an important role. “It is becoming more common to see a chef ask for specific products in order to maintain the quality of the food the restaurant offers. That is where we also have an opportunity.”

At the heart of the company’s production is a four-legged workforce: goats. “Depending on the time of the year, we have between 50 and 100 goats,” Olvera says. “With the 100 litters of milk they provide us on a daily basis, we can make around 100 cheeses of 200 grams. Still, production varies depending on client needs.” Regardless, Olvera says that Sierra Encantada is determined to maintain its artisanal production. “We do not want to have an industrial production since we do not want to lose the value of what we have already achieved. Our products have their own taste and identity. They are unlike any other product in the market.”

All the hard work is paying off, Olvera adds, with Sierra Encantada now on the radar of consumers and governmental agencies. “Little by little we have been gaining support from the government. The Ministry of Economy and SADER have provided us with important support to continue with our work.” While the product might already be gaining popularity, Olvera says the company still needs to work for more recognition beyond that of other artisanal cheese producers. “Sierra Encantada is not the only farm that does this. In Mexico there are six farms that have achieved international recognition. We need to continue working on this; there is already awareness regarding the existence and hard work behind this type of production. We now need to give a last push.”



Photo by:   MBP
Gabriela Mastache Gabriela Mastache Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst