When Modesto Toubes and Delia Cabarcos started their own San Simón da Costa cheese factory ten years ago, they found that Designation of Origin (D.O.) products already had a strong presence in the Galician market, where more than half a dozen cheese factories competed, so they chose to focus on the domestic market and particularly on the international one. Currently, half of its production is sold abroad, in the United States, Asia and Europe.
The Queixeria Casleiras, located in Oleiros (Vilalba), was created in the heyday of San Simón, shortly after the designation was expanded throughout the entire Terra Cha. “We were the first D.O. cheese factory to set up outside of the parish of San Simón,” recalls Modesto.- “At that time, both Delia had just graduated from the University and we had a some work experience in industries. It was then that the idea came to us about setting up our own cheese factory”.
“We hit the nail on the head. When we saw the market situation in Galicia, we thought that it made more sense to seek new markets”
The approach that they gave from the beginning to the marketing of the cheese, committing to introducing it to rest of Spain and abroad, proved successful. “We hit the nail on the head. When we saw the market situation in Galicia, we thought that it made more sense to seek new markets than to start competing with the rest of the San Simón cheese factories. In Madrid and Barcelona, San Simón was already a known product, not as much as today, but it worked. We also decided to look beyond because we were aware that San Simón is a cured, smoked cheese that can tolerate long journeys. We then spoke to exporters and from there we saw that our cheese was successful abroad”.
The opening of markets was progressive and continues to this day. “It is what allows us to grow” – Modesto values. “Just a few days ago we had our first cheese order from Myammar (formerly Burma)”. The Asian market is one of the strongest at export level. Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and South Korea are some of the countries where Casleiras is present.
The production of the cheese factory focuses on San Simón cheese, the majority in one kilo pieces, the most suitable to send abroad. Around 200 and 250 San Simón cheeses are hand-crafted each day.
They obtain their milk supply through an authorised buyer. “The milk is from the region, as corresponds to the designation of origin, and meets at the quality, fat and protein levels. The Terra Cha region is characterised for being a wet area with good pastures and forages, a feature that has an impact on good milk”.
The Sector in Galicia
Casleiras, which also sells its San Simón in Galicia through the Froiz supermarket chain, maintains a clear commitment to export, a feature that the majority of the designation cheese factories share, and in fact they set up as a joint undertaking, Queixeiros da Chaira, a few years ago to promote themselves together abroad.
In the opinion of Modest Toubes, the Casleiras’manager, the foreign market should be a priority for the Galician dairy sector. “We have some hand-crafted products with designation of origin and a quality that can compete at international level,” he values.
It is more difficult to send other designations like Arzúa-Ulloa or Tetilla abroad as they are soft cheeses, which must be eaten much quicker, although Modesto thinks that these D.Os could explore the authorisation of vacuum packaging for export, which would allow for the cheeses to be preserved longer.
Three awards at the World Cheese Awards
One of the main cheese competitions at international level, the World Cheese Awards, is used to recognising the San Simón da Costa cheese factories every year. Casleiras has already received three awards in the competition, a gold and a bronze in the smoked cheese category (2012 and 2014), and a bronze in cheese with designation of origin (2012).
The recognition of the quality of the cheeses in international competitions is one of the keys that enables the opening up of new markets. Another fundamental aspect for Casleiras was the Galicia Calidade certification in 2007.
“We were the first cheese factory in Galicia to obtain the Galicia Calidade seal, which provided us with a major boost. The fact that the logo appears on the label helps not only in Spain, where everyone knows the seal, but also in sales abroad. Furthermore, it is important to point out that Galicia Calidade directly supported us in our promotion. It was very important for us.”