Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese

The Grow Story of Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese

Entrepreneur: Eamonn Lonergan

Local Enterprise Office Supports: Agile Funding, Lean4Micro

Website: https://www.knockanorecheese.com/

Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese1

They say the best things come to those who wait, and Eamonn Lonergan, founder of Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese is the epitome of that adage.

Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese in the verdant West Waterford countryside produces a hard-pressed mature farmhouse cheese made in the cheddar style using raw milk, along with red and white cheddars, flavoured with garlic, herbs, black pepper and chives, as well as the famous Oakwood smoked cheddar.

Eamonn’s parents started with just four Kerry cows and Eamonn and his father patiently built up a top-class pedigree Friesian milking herd that today is 150 strong. 

Growing up on the farm Eamonn recognised they had a uniquely high-quality product and instead of just sending the milk to the local co-op, why not use it to make good cheese?  Interest piqued, he enrolled in a cheese making course at UCC and there gained the knowledge, skills and insight into cheese-making and in 1987, Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese was born.

For Eamonn, having belief in the product was paramount to its success.  From the very beginning, his USP was a top-quality cheese, made from raw milk from a single herd.   

There was no denying the quality of the product, but it was when Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, a company passionately committed to sourcing the highest quality artisan products began stocking Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese, it became a household name.

As contrary as it might seem, the 2001 outbreak of foot and mouth provided a further break for Knockanore.  The UK was unable to export its bestselling Applewood smoked cheese to Ireland, so seizing the opportunity, Eamonn collaborated with Kevin Sheridan of Sheridans Cheesemongers to promote their unpasteurised Oakwood smoked cheese which became popular with chefs throughout the country.

There have been challenges along the way, but Eamonn has risen to those challenges along the way.  “Starting a new business is not for the faint-hearted.  There will always be bumps along the road, but the key is to persevere, hang in there and learn from mistakes made.  Never stop learning and asking questions, because every day is a school day.”

Eamonn acknowledges the support he received from Local Enterprise Office Waterford.  “Over the last thirty years the level of support has been phenomenal.  The people we have dealt with have offered us nothing but great support in the form of mentoring and financial assistance.  It’s heartening to work with an agency that not only understands your business but wants it to flourish as well.”

“We availed of Lean for Micro assistance, which was excellent in helping us develop our management skills and recognising how to make improvements to increase productivity and profitability.  We also accessed the Agile Innovation Fund which helped us greatly in the development of a new product range.”

Heeding his own advice, Eamonn is continually learning and broadening the portfolio with the Bride Valley range, a specially selected pasteurised mid-range smoked and flavoured cheeses.  

A recent investment in new state-of-the art equipment to extend and modernise the cheese making facility, along with plans to roll out a new packaging system for all Knockanore’s pre-packed cheeses, signal Eamonn’s intent to future proof his business.

“There is a lot of competition out there, so you just have to keep on innovating.  You need to have the product that your customer wants, and the only way to do that is to ask. Research is crucial, because without any customers, even the best product in the world isn’t going to survive.”

Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese2

The next stages for Eamonn include growing the business, particularly within the food service sector, exploring new export markets, continuing to develop new ranges and educating the public and chefs about the different flavours and textures of artisan cheese.

Eamonn’s long term vision for the business is that it will sustain the next generation.

As the parents of adult children Eamonn and his wife Patricia would love if one of their children chose to join the family firm and build on its success, “We would love to see them involved in the business, but equally would never push them into it, unless they truly have the same passion for it as we do.”

Thirty years later, the drive, passion and commitment to producing a unique, high quality product is unabated and surely, something that future generations will be able to enjoy.

 

Share: