Southlanders who found a niche in producing authentic paneer from raw milk are starting to expand their business. Paneer is a type of acid-set cheese originating from the Indian subcontinent.
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KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF Southlanders, from left, Roger Guise, Thiagarajan Rajoo and Julie Guise are pioneering making paneer from raw milk in New Zealand.

Southland couple Julie and Roger Guise, after chatting with Thiagarajan Rajoo at church, found out authentic paneer was not being made in New Zealand.

The bulk of paneer in New Zealand is made from powder or standardised milk, as opposed to being made with raw milk.

The Guises, who are dairy farmers in Aparima, then went into the cheesemaking business with Rajoo about two years ago.

“The milk is straight from the farm, which means it’s not standardised, so the cream in the milk is still there … when they use standardised milk they actually remove the cream … so when you make the paneer using the cream in the milk, it’s much softer and richer,” Rajoo explained of why their paneer was more authentic.

MooDew Paneer had a slow start as they had a few hurdles to get through.

“It took us well over two years to get over the compliance process with MPI [Ministry of Primary Industries] to get all the plans … because when we were talking to them, they didn’t know what we were talking about [paneer and raw milk process],” Julie said.

MooDew Paneer officially started selling its product on June 1, 2019, but soon was hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

They were only selling to restaurants at that point, and due to lockdown, they had to discard what was in the fridges that had paneer, Julie said.

That was when renowned Kiwi chef Peter Gordon, of Sugar Club in Auckland, emailed them.

His email says “you are one of the 15 businesses that I’d like to partner with”.

Gordon, had decided during lockdown he wanted to support small food producers in New Zealand.

“I read it and read it and read it, and thought this sounds a bit like a scam … but I replied to it,” Julie said.

It turned out not to be a scam and Gordon did a Zoom call with them and later met up with Julie in Auckland.

MooDew also featured on a current affairs programme that featured Gordon and what he was attempting to do to support Kiwi businesses, and that aired in 2020.

The business was inundated with orders after that, said Julie.

Right now the company is in the process of expanding, purchasing new specialist equipment to allow them to make more paneer to provide to supermarkets.

The company is also experimenting with new flavours, and have plans for a chilli paneer, ginger and honey paneer and more.

Last month, 14 of our dairy farms in Maine, as well as dozens of dairy farms across northern New England, got an unexpected and disappointing notice from Danone of North America saying that they were discontinuing their contracts with our organic dairy farmers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and elsewhere.

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