Meet the cheesemakers who overcame the reduced-fat challenge

The team behind NZMP’s Tasty Light Cheese explain how they create this award-winning, reduced-fat product

19 Dec 2023

4 min

#Dairy Foods #Awards #Global

One of the biggest challenges in creating a tasty cheese with reduced fat is retaining its flavour profile. That’s the problem that NZMP™ cheesemakers faced when they created Tasty Light. Thanks to their years of expertise and their determination to succeed, they’ve overcome those challenges to produce a truly unique, multi-award-winning product.

Same great taste, less fat

“It’s always been a challenge to produce a tasty cheese with reduced fat because the flavours often come from the fat in the product and what happens to it during ripening. We wanted to make a product that was appealing to customers – one in which they wouldn’t even notice that some of the fat was missing.” 

- Andrew Legg, Senior Technical Officer in Fonterra's Research Pilot Plant


Now, having done just that, Andrew says it’s one of the best in the world. Proof of that is the sheer number of cheese awards that Tasty Light has won over recent years.

The development of this inspirational cheese was truly a team effort of scientists and technologists, as well as experts from the Microbial Fermentation Unit, who supply the unique starter cultures that make Fonterra’s cheeses. During the development process, the team trialled a variety of different cultures as well as recipe tweaks. Around halfway through that process, they hit gold. The result was a cheese with a firm, smooth texture and body, a more mature savoury cheddar flavour with fruity notes – with one third less fat than other tasty cheeses.

“The texture is very similar to Edam, but its shred ability is when it comes into its own,” says Senior Technologist, Andrew Huxford.

“We use specific in-house starter cultures combined with processing tweaks to make this award-winning cheese. Seamless collaboration between R&D and manufacturing allowed us to overcome many challenges during its development.”

- Andrew Huxford,  Senior Technologist, Fonterra

Embracing the crunch

The cheese is also unique in that it grows white crystals – something the team didn’t expect but quickly embraced. It’s become a unique selling point; the crystals are perfectly safe to eat, adding a crunch to the cheese. “It has a beautiful golden-brown colour, delicious on toast, scones or any other application,” says Andrew. 

“We’ve had hundreds of customers come in and taste it, and they all love it. That’s something we’re really proud of.”


The people behind the cheese

The team behind Tasty Light share a wealth of expertise and it’s the collaboration between R&D, the cheese technical team, and manufacturing that makes what they do such a huge success. Caine Williams, the Process Manager at Fonterra’s Hautapu plant worked together with the Fonterra Research and Development team on the project when it came to making it at his plant. Over his sixteen years at Fonterra, he’s made his way through the ranks, first to supervisor and now to manager. “It’s been a great privilege to learn from many of the great gurus in industry – and that knowledge has been invaluable.”

Andrew Huxford began his career at Kapiti 30 years ago where he learned the A-Z of cheesemaking. He started working for Fonterra in 2008 and held several roles before taking up his current position. He completed a master’s course in cheesemaking at the University of Melbourne and says he’s been lucky to have learned from the best.  

Andrew Legg’s 18 years of experience at Fonterra, both as a Cheese Technologist and Pilot Plant Cheese Maker, means he was well-versed in the ups and downs of the technical challenges. The level of expertise in cheese technology from the whole team is behind the unique, full flavour of Tasty Light and proof that it is possible to make great-tasting reduced fat products.

The key to success

By clearly understanding the consumer target and then utilising the work of previous cheese scientists and technologists, the team worked together to successfully iron out problems along the way. Good communication and a united vision, along with a knowledge of how each team works, was key to removing any risks around commercialisation. Recognition of their work comes by way of just how well this cheese performs at cheese awards around the world with accolades including:

  • Gold, Best Cheese on Toast, International Cheese & Dairy Awards, 2023
  • Gold, Best Cheese on Toast, International Cheese & Dairy Awards, 2022
  • Bronze, NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, 2022
  • Gold, Best Cooking Cheese, International Cheese & Dairy Awards, 2021
  • Silver, Best Cheese on Toast, International Cheese & Dairy Awards, 2021
  • Bronze, NZ Champions of Cheese Awards, 2021

Leverage NZMP’s award-winning cheeses

NZMP has an extensive range of exceptional cheese and dairy products renowned for their consistent quality, performance, and delicious flavour. To find out how your brand can benefit from using Tasty Light or any of our other world-class ingredients, talk to your NZMP Account Manager or reach out by using the button below.

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