Gert-Jan Rutgers, Chief Commercial Officer, can you describe the history of your company Cheesepop?
In 2009 Cheesepop B.V. was founded by Mark Zijerveld, son of the renowned Dutch cheese family, Zijerveld. Although Cheesepop B.V. is an independently owned business, Mark has been able to build on the expertise and knowledge of his family in developing patented technology that makes the cheeses literally pop. As such the eponymous cocktail snack and culinary extra was born, called Cheesepop, made of 100% cheese.
In 2014 Cheesepop was launched on the Dutch market. Shortly after, the German market was entered successfully too. Gert-Jan Rutgers, CCO of Cheesepop B.V. says, « We have tested the international potential of Cheesepop on the German market between 2015 and 2016. This proved to be a success, and therefore we started to look for an even more international platform. The SIAL Food Exhibition seemed to be the perfect opportunity for us. » Already during the exhibition Cheesepop was overwhelmed with positive reactions from many of world’s largest retailers, distributors and other interested parties.
Right after the SIAL, Cheesepop was awarded by the German-Dutch Commercial Court with the Economy award 2016. During the ceremony the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, gave a speech and the Director of the German-Dutch Commercial Court finished the evening with the following words: « Cheesepop shows us that a typical Dutch product, like cheese, can be used in a completely new way, when making use of an innovative production method ».
Currently, Cheesepop is exporting its product to 13 countries worldwide, and in another 12 countries the developments are becoming more and more concrete. So yet is more to come, especially with the ANUGA coming up in a few weeks from now!
Why have you launched these products and who are your consumers?
Due to the family background of Mark Zijerveld, it was a logical step to look for an innovation in the dairy industry.
Via his network, Mark came across the idea of popping cheese; a complex production process that enabled to create a surprisingly crunchy cheese product with unique product characteristics.
For example, crunchiness was, until the introduction of Cheesepop, not something that was directly associated with cheese. Both consumers and people from the industry expressed that they were surprised: « Crunchy cheese, really? ».
Moreover, during the production process almost all moisture is removed from the product, which causes Cheesepop to have a very long shelf life.
This, together with the fact that Cheesepop can be kept both on room temperature as in the refrigerator, makes it very convenient for people to consume whenever they want.
So maybe you can imagine, that this makes the target market for Cheesepop very broad. Where adults mainly use the product as a cocktail snack when enjoying a glass of wine with friends, children bring Cheesepops to school, instead of their relatively unhealthy snack that contains many additives.
Sports people love the low carbohydrate level, while the product does contain many proteins.
Chefs like to include Cheesepops in their dishes, like salads or soups. Hotels find the product very suitable for the minibar, and airlines take Cheesepops on board for their passengers during the flight.
What is the role of innovation in the creation of your products?
Innovation is the core of Cheesepop.
Especially the production process is revolutionary, but at the same time, we cannot reveal too much of it.
What we can reveal it that the cheese is being cut, dried and popped.
We only use the best cheeses that have proven their quality for over centuries. We currently offer Cheesepop made from Gouda and Emmental cheese, but in the previous years, we have tested our production methodology on different cheese varieties and we have found that, for example Cheddar is also a very suitable cheese variety to produce Cheesepop with.
Besides applying our production process to different cheese varieties, we also applied it to grated cheese. This resulted into another product of Cheesepop B.V., called UP-grated, which is again a real innovation! We look forward to developing many more innovations that contribute to the growth of the dairy industry.
Another factor that is of main importance to the innovativeness of Cheesepop are the people around us.
Our team consists of innovation minded people, who are not afraid to think out of the box. We have one common goal, which is to sell Cheesepop all over the world. The combination of these human assets together with the revolutionary technology gives Cheesepop a great international potential.
This is something more and more people in the retail, food service and manufacturing industry are starting to acknowledge too.
Finally, we have the end-consumers, who have already embraced Cheesepop. As one of the very first, they have tried this innovative product. Without them, Cheesepop would exist, but wouldn’t be able to grow the way we do now.
A positive word of mouth is the most valuable marketing you can wish for, and therefore our end-consumers deserve kudos for the effort they make in spreading the word. This is what we also see on social media. Cheesepop is building a worldwide fan base. From Japan to France, Cheesepop is literally « popping up ».
What is your vision of the use of the aperitif in the years to come?
Currently, Cheesepop is mainly being used as a cocktail snack.
The snacking market is already voluminous and it is only becoming bigger and bigger.
People are busy and en route all the time, but once they are off, they want to enjoy it to the fullest.
They take a glass of wine together with a snack, and enjoy their time with friends.
And what is tastier than having a crunchy cheese snack alongside a cheese board, a charcuterie board or a crisp?
Moreover, it is presented in an eye-catching packaging, so very convenient for such moments.
If you review the snacking market in general, you see various movements. Especially the trend of « healthy snacking » is very prominent.
Since Cheesepop is made of 100% cheese, it definitely fits to this trend. Moreover, Cheesepop is carbohydrate free and gluten free, so it is very suitable to use in various diets.
In addition to the application of a cocktail snack, Cheesepop is more and more being used as a culinary extra.
It is great to see how creative people are with the product.
They add Cheesepop to their salad or soup, but they also use it to crumb their fish or meat with. We have even seen that Cheesepop is being used in ice-cream. Very innovative, and this proves that the product is very versatile.
So, we definitely believe that Cheesepop will continue to develop all over the world, and simultaneously we will continue to communicate newly discovered opportunities for the application of the product!