Skip to main content
Spring 2012
Print Bookmark and Share

Students

Out of Africa: Cornell Cheese Club’s Kenyan Adventure

By Daina Ringus ’12

A partnership between a Kenyan cheese company and the Cornell Cheese Club may give chocolate mint ice cream some competition from flavors from the equator, including chocolate tree tomato, lemon basil vanilla, and lavender with honeycomb crunch.

I was among a group of four food science graduate students who traveled to Kenya in January to develop new products, analyze the factory workflow, and research export markets for Brown’s Cheese Company, run by Cornell alumni Andy ’01, MEN ’02, and Delia Stirling ’02.

Andy Stirling and Matt Ranieri cut a vat of cottage cheese curd at Brown’s Cheese.

Andy Stirling and Matt Ranieri cut a vat of cottage cheese curd at Brown’s Cheese.

Workers at Brown’s Cheese fill Baby Gouda molds.

Workers at Brown’s Cheese fill Baby Gouda molds.

Andy Stirling cores a three-year-old wheel of Antique Gouda

Andy Stirling cores a three-year-old wheel of Antique Gouda.

The company, founded by Delia’s parents Sue and Dave Brown, has grown from a small, home-based business into the leading producer of gourmet cheese in Kenya. The company makes more than 14 styles of European style cheeses, including Gouda, Brie, Camembert, and Blue style cheeses, in one of the country’s most productive farming areas, surrounded by tea and flower plantations.

Our trip was part of the Cornell International Institute for Food, Agricultural and Development’s Student Multidisciplinary Applied Research Team (SMART) program, which sends teams of students and faculty members to partner with agricultural organizations and entrepreneurs in developing countries.

For two weeks, we tackled new products for the Brown’s Cheese brand, including cottage cheese and ice cream, that are not readily available in Kenyan supermarkets. Fresh milk from cooperatives was brought to the farm each morning in aluminum milk churns, sourced from more than 3,000 smallholder farmers.

Matthew Ranieri ’06, M.S. ’09, focused on cottage cheese, a challenging endeavor because it requires precise control of temperature and acidity, while Pajau Vangay ’13 and I formulated new super premium ice cream bases and flavors.
One of the most successful flavors was the tree tomato, a local fruit that smells and tastes like a papaya. Once it’s stewed, it resembles a berry jam with a slight tomato aftertaste. We came up with a chocolate and tree tomato blend that was really nice.

In addition to expanding in their home market with these new fresh products, the Stirlings are looking for opportunities in export markets. Cornell Institute for Public Affairs fellow Stephanie Bryant investigated the United Arab Emirates as a potential market for Brown’s Cheese and developed a market entry plan for the company.


Related