Henri Willig, Specialist Cheese Maker

Henri Willig is a maker of Dutch cheese specialities, the most well-known of which is Baby Gouda. Goat's cheese, sheep's cheese and organic cheese are examples of specialities made from our own recipes. Henri Willig develops his own cheese products in his own cheese factory and exports cheese to over 30 countries.

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Our method

Our production facility in Heerenveen produces large volumes of cheese. Not just the regular Dutch cheeses and baby ones, but also specialties such as Polderkaas, Polderkaas Biologisch and Hooidammer. Henri Willig produces, packages and supplies to wholesalers and shops in over 30 countries.

The cheese farms in the North Holland region also produce cheeses, but on a smaller scale. These products are available in the shops of these farms.

The production process: this is how we work

Production capacity

The variety in our cheese product range shows in our production process. We are used to quickly and effectively switching between the various cheese types in small to mid-size batches, ordered by wholesalers. On the other hand, there is also an increase of large scale production for international retailers.

Our cheese dairies have a capacity of about 5500 tonnes of cheese a year. The main production facility for Henri Willig is located in Heerenveen.

Milk suppliers

Henri Willig collaborates with about 60 Dutch milk suppliers. They supply regular, organic and biodynamic cow milk and the regular and organic goat and sheep milk. We use strict standards regarding freshness and quality of this milk. Each supplier is subject to a rigorous audit. For each delivery a sample is taken for chemical and microbiological analysis.

 

Cheese-making, a discipline in its own right

Making curd out of milk

Our own dairy trucks collect the milk from the farms and transport it to the factory. The milk is standardised and pasteurised within 24 hours. After adding the starter culture and rennet, the curd (the first cheese stage) is traditionally made with a curd preparation. The starter culture is an excipient, consisting of natural lactic cultures, and converts the sugar (lactose) in the milk into lactic acid. The starter culture also encourages renneting of the milk and influences the taste and durability of the cheese. Rennet ensures the milk protein coagulates and the fat is solidified to form cheese curd.
After curd preparation the curd is cut and the lactose is washed out, making it a mild cheese. The curd is filled into moulds and pressed. Before the cheeses leave the dairy, a detector is used to check it for metal. The herbs for the varieties concerned are added just before the moulds are filled. They are specifically selected for their delicate aroma and high quality to guarantee the best possible flavour for the cheese. 

From curd to cheese: salting and ripening

The pressed curd is salted in brine for a while. During this process salt is absorbed in the cheese. It firms the rind and the cheese can be preserved for longer. Salt also influences the flavour. That is why Dutch cheeses are immersed in a salt or brine bath for approximately two days and then placed on wooden shelves to ripen. We call this naturally ripening. The cheese quietly ripens in our store room under ideal conditions. During this process the cheese is regularly treated, turned and visually checked to guarantee the best possible flavour and quality.
During ripening the cheese is given a thin plastic coating. This serves as a means to regulate the moisture content of the cheese to prevent too much moisture from evaporating from the cheese, but also not too little. Depending on the age of the cheese it can be left on the shelf for anything from a minimum of 21 days (young cheese) to over 1 year (extra matured cheese). When the cheese is at the right age, its ripening is slowed down by applying a layer of paraffin on the cheese, which also serves as a protective layer. Depending on the customer, before or after this process a label and band are applied. Before packaging the cheeses are once again checked for metal particles and then individually packaged in a cardboard box.

Certificates

An optimum and constant cheese quality can only be achieved when the production process is systematic and safe. That process – from purchasing to logistics and after-sales service – has been carefully detailed in our quality manual. In order to ensure that these processes and procedures have actually been standardised, our production process is periodically audited in accordance with the HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), BRC (British Retail Consortium) and IFS (International Food Standard) standards.
Having these quality system certificates means we comply with the standards regarding production and packaging of foodstuffs required on a European and international level. These standards guarantee uniformity and food safety on a high quality level.



Care for quality

Henri Willig produces the most flavoursome cheeses, which can be consumed safely. We use the strictest standards in order to market premium, safe products.

Having a properly functioning quality system is vital in this respect. All procedures, working instructions and registration forms have been documented in our quality manual. Traceability is also a key element in our risk control system. Our labelling guarantees we can always retrace the identification details of each cheese product during production, storage and distribution.

Hygiene policy

In the interest of the consumer, as well as our own, we adhere to a strict hygiene policy. This shows from a set of hygiene rules every employee is aware of. Compliance is supervised strictly. Each year, all employees complete a hygiene training course and – if required – hygiene rules are adjusted or added to. Visitors are only allowed in the production area under the same instructions and are always supervised. The microbiological values are periodically analysed.

Raw materials

Henri Willig collaborates with approximately 60 milk suppliers. They supply regular, organic and biodynamic cow milk and regular and organic goat and sheep milk. We adhere to strict standards regarding freshness and quality of this milk. Each supplier is subject to a rigorous audit in this respect. A sample is taken of every delivery for chemical and microbiological analysis.

For the various herb recipes we collaborate with regular suppliers to ensure consistency in flavour and quality. Our inspectors and analysts monitor this every time new herbs are delivered.


Corporate responsibility: this is how we do it

As a modern producer, we meet changing interests and requirements in society. Henri Willig believes that growth, sustainability and good employment practices go well together. Openness is vital in this regard. The opinions of the consumer, our customers and our employees are of major importance for the development of new products and improving operational processes. In addition, we try to contribute to society in a variety of ways.

Sustainability

A growing number of consumers are looking for ethically responsible products. Customers are increasingly aware of producers who make conscious sustainable choices.
In addition to our regular cheeses we have recently given high priority to organic and biodynamic ones. The organic and biodynamic milk supplied for them is our connection with the agriculture involved. Organic dairy farmers are bound to specific requirements regarding environment, nature and landscape, animal welfare and production methods. In organic production methods no fertilisers and synthetic pesticides are used to keep the soil free from unnatural chemicals.
In our own production process we reduce residual waste to a minimum. We actively try to find buyers in processed cheese production for cheeses that we have rejected ourselves, but are completely safe for consumption. We process whey into semi-finished products for further processing in the food industry. Packaging and other residual waste is sorted and disposed of.

Good employment practices

The growth Henri Willig has gone through since it was established is the result of the good interaction between its management and employees. We strive to strengthen each other and to continue growing with the same goal in mind. In this process we see an important task for the staff association and the employees’ council. The former as a social platform, the latter in providing important expertise, experience, opinions and ideas from a mutual commitment from within the various corporate areas of activity. With an open attitude we take this information on board as a valuable basis for our decision making process. An honest personnel policy, safe working conditions and fringe benefits further help putting our aim of wanting to be a good employer into practice.

Safety policy

The Henri Willig safety policy is aimed at providing a healthy work environment for our employees. The risk regarding activities and our production facility are documented in the SCC* certified occupational health and safety management system. It includes a CER plan and instructions on how to handle dangerous situations, physically strenuous work, accidents and sickness. By systematically working according to the safety principles described, we can effectively control risks and comply with all safety requirements. This helps us to further improve our occupational health and safety performance.

Social involvement

The Henri Willig cheese dairy is firmly rooted in society and feels involved in how it functions. In our opinion, participating in the labour process makes people happier and is more satisfying than staying at home. We try to contribute by having people who are re-entering the job market work for us under supervision. We also regularly consult the employment office to offer jobs to people who have been looking for work (for some time). We also like to offer trainee opportunities or temporary jobs to students. In addition, we support several social, cultural or sporty causes and initiatives when and where we can.


2018

Nantwich Cheese Awards Engeland

Polderkaas sheep cheese extra old

  Beste schapen kaas

Nantwich Cheese Awards Engeland

Pure Gold

  Beste Hollandse kaas

2016

Nantwich Cheese Awards England

Best Organic Cheese Specialty

  Biological Gouda old

Nantwich Cheese Awards England

Regular Goat cheese with additives

  Polder cheese gold goat cheese extra old

2015

World Cheese Awards England

Semi-hard Regular Goat Cheese

  Polder cheese gold goat cheese extra old

2014

Kaesiade Tirol Austria

Regular Goat cheese

  Polder Cheese Gold Goat Cheese Extra Old

2013

Nantwich Cheese Awards England

Regular Goat cheese with additives

  Polder cheese Blanc Goat cheese Fenugreek

Global Cheese Awards England

Regular Goat cheese with additives

  Polder cheese Blanc Goat cheese Fenugreek

Global Cheese Awards England

Best Organic Cheese

  Organic Cow cheese Green Pesto

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