x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Green pesto cheese proves a hit at UAE Gulfood exhibition

A pesto-flavoured cheese is proving to be a big hit at Gulfood in Dubai, which may be on UAE shelves soon.

DUBAI // Blue cheese is one thing. Green is quite another - and often a sign that it's time for it to go.

But not in the case of a new pesto-flavoured gouda that has been drawing crowds at this week's Gulfood exhibition.

"We started making pesto-flavoured cheese four years ago," said Dick Veldhuijzen, chief executive of the Dutch company Veldhuyzen Kaas.

"We export to 46 countries, including Germany and Russia where it is a big success."

From smoked to spicy, the company already makes a range of unusual cheese blends. Pesto did not always look promising, though.

"I was talking with our sales team and they said we needed a new cheese," Mr Veldhuijzen said.

"Someone suggested pesto cheese but I didn't think it would work with dry herbs."

Another problem was making it look attractive.

"At first, I thought it was a bad idea," he said. "When people see a green-looking cheese, they think it might be moulded and that it's not normal to have that colour."

But he decided to risk it. "I thought we needed a special cheese, with a very good taste and an attractive one to look at. We worked with a cheese with a lot of basil in it and that's what makes it very green."

The pesto cheese is a standard gouda with a slightly higher fat content than usual, with 10 litres of milk going into each kilo.

It is ripened for six or seven weeks before being distributed.

Having realised the green pesto cheese was a hit, the company started making a fiery red tomato pesto version two years later.

"When I saw the success of the green pesto I thought this one would be successful too," Mr Veldhuijzen said. "They are now one of my most popular cheeses."

Gulfood visitors trying the cheese were pleasantly surprised.

"It's great, your mouth really gets full of the pesto taste," said Ramin Naseri, an Iranian visitor. "I prefer the green one, it's delicious."

Sam Lahdo, from Australia, said: "It's a little bit strong, but good. For some people it might be too strong so they should go for the red cheese because it's lighter."

The cheese may be on UAE shelves soon. "Some supermarkets have expressed interest," Mr Veldhuijzen said. "If that works out, we're hoping to start shipping as soon as possible, maybe before the end of the year."

cmalek@thenational.ae