Half a century ago, Henri and Riet Willig started making Dutch quality cheeses on their dairy farm. Over the past 50 years, this small business has grown into an internationally renowned cheese factory with customers all over the world enjoying our quality products. On this page, we look back at the past years with gratitude.
In 1974, at the age of 23, Henri married Riet Visser and took over the farming business from his parents. The farm in Katwoude - because a Jacob always lived there - is called the Jacobs Hoeve. The brand-new couple starts taking a cheese-making course. In the year that followed, the first tourists came to see how Willig's special artisanal cheeses were made. After that, things move quickly. Four years later, the counter already stands at 120,000 visitors a year.
Privately, Henri and Riet also fared well: in the years that followed their three sons Jacob, Wiebe and Martin are born.
In 1980, the cows at Jacobs Hoeve got a new barn. Henri decides to convert the old stable for goats. From then on, the cheese he would later become famous for is made. However, things go wrong in 1985, when the Jacobs Hoeve goes up in flames. The cheese factory and shop are lost and the house is damaged. Together with their staff, Henri and Riet rebuilt their business: after nine days, they opened a temporary shop in their neighbour's stables, and after two years cheese was once again being made on the Jacobs Hoeve as before.
The Jacobs Hoeve becomes too small for the large flow of visitors. Two cheese farms were added: first the Alida Hoeve in Volendam and in 1992 the Catharina Hoeve on the Zaanse Schans. In 1994, two shops were opened in Edam and in 1996 Henri opened his first shop in Amsterdam in Magna Plaza. It was the start of a whole series of shops under the Henri Willig name. Moreover, in April 2000 the web shop was launched, allowing people worldwide to have their cheese delivered to their homes with just a few mouse clicks. To keep up with demand, a new, modern cheese factory was opened in Heerenveen in 2003.
During the 2006 World Cheese Making Championships, Henri Willig's craftsmanship will be rewarded with the prize for the very tastiest hard goat cheese. It is one of the many awards the pioneer will receive.
In 2011, Henri Willig transferred the management of the company to his son, Wiebe. Under his leadership, the first Cheese & More shop was opened in 2012 and the Henri Willig Academy was founded in 2013. Henri still remains involved though: in 2017, he built the organic farm at the Jacobs Hoeve a barn with the latest technologies for the Jersey cows. A year later, the first shop abroad is opened, at Kärntner Straße in Vienna.
Curious about the whole story behind Henri Willig Cheese? Then read on soon in the anniversary book or follow us on social media, where we will be counting down to the anniversary in the coming weeks.