West Cork cheesemaker celebrates 41 years in business with increased sales

West Cork cheesemaker celebrates 41 years in business with increased sales
Co-owner of Durrus Cheese, Sarah Hennessy.

Cork company Durrus Cheese, named after the village south of Coomkeen at the start of Sheep’s Head Peninsula, is celebrating 41 years in production with increased sales of its product.

The company has thrived since joining SuperValu’s Food Academy back in 2015 and its products are now available in many stores around Cork with increased sales during Covid-19.

Sales of locally produced Food Academy products have soared across the country as people continue to support local businesses with a 22% rise in sales over the past 12 weeks.

Owner of the company, Jeffa Gill, moved to Coomkeen in West Cork in the early 1970s, and started a small business growing vegetables next to her farmhouse and selling the milk from her eight dairy cows.

Her endeavours expanded when nine years later, she tried her hand at cheesemaking and found her passion that has now turned into a lifelong business. By the mid-1980s more help was needed and friend and neighbour Ann McGrath joined in with the enterprise.

Approaching its fourth decade, Durrus Cheese is still handmade by Ms Gill along with her daughter Sarah Hennessy.

The mother-and-daughter-run business boasts two semi-soft cheeses, one smoked variety and a harder, six-month aged Dunmanus.

The cheeses are handmade by a small team of five, from cutting the curds with a Swiss harp, to draining off the whey, bathing the cheese in a salty brine and then washing the rind each day until the finished product is ready to be wrapped and dispatched.

Since joining the Food Academy, many more SuperValu stores have stocked Durrus Cheese’s products on its shelves across Cork.

Co-owner of the business, Sarah Hennesy, said that one of their first stockists was O’Keeffe’s SuperVali in Bantry in the 1980s and that many more links have been made with SuperValu stores across Cork since joining the Food Academy.

“We received one-to-one mentorship and guidance and the ultimate joy was seeing our products stocked on SuperValu shelves,” she said.

The SuperValu Food Academy is a food business development programme between SuperValu, Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) where participants receive training in market research and branding, food safety, marketing, finance and business development.

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