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Old Chatham's Partnerships Lead To New Products, Creamery Ramps Up Production At
Groton Facility

 

Read the formatted article here.

On the heels of winning two top awards this summer at the American Cheese Society (ACS) Cheese Judging & Competition, Old Chatham Creamery here is fully installed in its new facility, planning increased production, new products and continued successful retail partnerships.

Stockinghall, an aged Cheddar created by Murray’s Cheese who worked with Old Chatham Creamery in developing and producing the cheese, won Best of Show. Second place went to Professor’s Brie – Wegmans Food Market developed their own recipe for Professor’s Brie in partnership with Old Chatham.

The company was originally founded in 1993 by Nancy and Tom Clark in the historic village of Old Chatham, NY, as a dairy sheep farm. It soon became one of the largest sheep’s milk farmstead creameries in the US.

In 2012, David and Sally Galton purchased Old Chatham’s flock of sheep from the Clarks, and managed the flock in Chatham for two years until 2014 when David Galton, a retired Cornell University ag professor, and his wife, Sally, built a state-of-the-art sheep farm in nearby Locke, NY. The farm is roughly six miles from the new Groton facility.

At the end of 2014, the Galtons purchased the cheesemaking end of Old Chatham Creamery.

“We ended up in a lease agreement in Old Chatham, renting the creamery and continuing on with our process of making cheese and yogurt at the Old Chatham location,” said Allyson Brennan, national sales manager, Old Chatham Creamery.

In the summer of 2018, construction began at the Groton facility, which is about 20 miles north of Ithaca, NY.

We’re going from a five-thousand square-foot, 25 year-old creamery to a 32,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art processing plant, Brennan said.

The new facility combines everything together, said creamery manager Brian Schlatter, who’s responsible for all production, research and development.

“Everything’s under one roof now,” he said. “We primarily purchased all new equipment. Most of the equipment from the old facility is dated and aged. Like any production business, there’s a life-cycle to everything.”

If you’re going to start a new business, you might as well start with new equipment, Schlatter said.

“The new plant also gives us the opportunity to reach out to new markets,” Brennan said. “We didn’t have enough space in the old plant; here, we can go after larger markets.”

The company will serve markets coast-to-coast, along with Midwest and West Coast markets, which the Creamery hopes to expand upon with the new plant, she said.
Dave and Sally Galton also operate three Holstein dairy farms in Central and Upstate New York.

“All of our goat, sheep and cow’s milk is from our own farms,” Brennan said.

The Creamery will predominantly use small ruminant milk, Schlatter said.
A lot of the challenges at Old Chatham dealt with the aging facility, Schlatter said.

Here, our challenge was designing a brand new space to meet the required certifications that our buyers want.

Since we operate yogurt – which is Grade A – along with bloomy rind, Blue and soon-to-be Cheddar cheese and Gouda cheeses, how do you operate those four different and very distinctive productions within the same space?

“We actually have four different production spaces here at the facility,” he continued. “It’s not just one big room. We have four distinctive production spaces under one roof.”

Each production space also has its own separate aging area alongside.
Cheese production will be a very prominent part of the company’s portfolio, Schlatter said. As we’re ramping up production here, we’ll also be increasing sheep’s milk yogurt production and introducing goat’s milk yogurt.

Outside of that, what Old Chatham will strongly focus on is our cheese, he said.

Genesis Of Stockinghall Cheese
During the last part of 2013, Cornell University food scientist and cheese consultant Matthew Ranieri was working with Murray’s Cheese, teaming up with Cornell and its Stocking Hall pilot dairy plant for research and development trials on Cheddar recipes.

“From these efforts, Murray’s chose a recipe and it became known as Stockinghall Cheddar,” Brennan said.

Steve Millard, senior vice president of merchandising and operations for Murray’s Cheese, headed up Murray’s team.

The recipe used to make Stockinghall is proprietary and owned exclusively by Murray’s Cheese.

Advantages, Challenges Of Retail Partnerships
A collaboration between cheese companies and affineur outfits can present both opportunities and challenges. One of the challenges of a retail partnership, Schlatter said, is that there’s many hands involved in the process.

It’s not just “we make it, we age it, we try it and we say yes or no,” he said. There’s always going to be a delay in the process.

 

 
Old Chatham Creamery’s new state-of-the-art, 400,000 square-foot facility in Groton, NY, features four distinctive production spaces under one roof as well as four separate aging spaces.  

“When you’re partnering with another company, you’re making exactly what they want,” he continued. “It’s a challenge but at the same time, provides a really great opportunity because it opens up avenues of communication about flavor, texture or the final product in a way you may not have otherwise when you’re working internally.”

 

“When you’re partnering with another company, you’re making exactly what they want. It’s a challenge but at the same time, provides a really great opportunity because it opens up avenues of communication about flavor, texture or the final product in a way you may not have otherwise when you’re working internally.”
—Brian Schlatter, Old Chatham Creamery

 

It’s not just your team at your creamery; it’s your team and your creamery, plus their team and their business coming together,” Schlatter said. “There’s more brains involved.”

Even though you’ve got a lot more opinions on how things should be, you also have a lot more information and are able to better understand the final goal, he said.

The partnership also needs to include a retailer that’s able to take on adequate product volume, Schlatter said, and a producer that’s able to make enough cheese.

“Coming from the production end, you can make a lot of cheese in a little, tiny space,” he said. “When it comes to aging, that takes up space.”

If a particular retailer has the ability to take on your production and you can meet their requirements, as a small producer it’s a way to generate more revenue without having to put more capital into your business right away, Schlatter continued.

The idea of Wegmans having its own affinage and quality control space began in 2008. Wegmans began working with Cornell University with a goal of promoting New York State artisan creameries.

“Smaller producers would be able to make a lot of cheese and not have to worry about aging,” Brennan said. “Wegmans really went out of its way to support New York State artisan cheese makers.”

“That’s how we got started with them,” she continued. “As the caves became a reality, Wegmans reached out to producers in New York State and Vermont.”

Wegmans’ corporate headquarters is located in Rochester and with Old Chatham’s move to the Finger Lakes region, the cheese is literally “made in Wegmans’ back yard,” Brennan said, which is a primary goal of the grocery chain – to offer local products.

Old Chatham is soon set to debut its new goat milk yogurt.

Old Chatham will continue making cheeses for Wegmans’ and Murray’s, Schlatter said. As a company, we feel having partnerships like this is a very strategic and needed thing – it provides an avenue that’s outside the traditional norm of selling cheese in America.

For more information, visit www.oldchathamcreamery.com.