The farm that makes the Tingvoll cheese has been in operation since 1303. So you could say that when they started the company Tingvollost, they had already had 700 years of planning. It is a long time, and as you may expect, the farm is steeped in history and tradition.
The family-run company Tingvollost made a piece of Norwegian food history with their blue cheese Kraftkar, which was developed over 13 years. The cheese has gone from strength to strength, from the Norwegian Championship and all the way to the World Cheese Awards in San Sebastian, Spain, where it beat 3,021 competitor cheeses from 31 countries. The mighty cheese Kraftkar (which means "powerful man" in Norwegian) blew stars like Roquefort and Stilton off the cheese plate.
When the dairy farm was established at the Saghaug farm in 2003, this kind of success was beyond everyone’s imagination. In the early days, Solvor Waagen produced the cheese in the bathroom. A whole ton of it, incredibly enough. The separate dairy and farm shop were built in 2006.
To a great extent, the success is due to the use of quality ingredients. The cheese is made with pasteurized cow's milk from their own farm. To ensure that the milk is of top quality, they grow ten different types of grass.
There is no doubt that size has played a big part for Tingvoll. It's important to be small – not too small but in any case definitely not too big. Their first goal was to become a leading cheese producer in Møre og Romsdal. Now, as the farmers of the best cheese in the world, lots of new customers are lining up.
Expanding is not an option, however. They may adjust a little bit, but not expand. They use every centimetre of the warehouse, have invested 20 million NOK and are happy with the profit margins and the 20 tons of cheese they produce.
“We have been very self-critical and moved forward one cheese at a time. At one point we produced seven cheeses. We stopped three of them in order to focus on the remaining four. We started winning prizes already in 2008 – Norwegian, Nordic and international competitions. We didn't want to conquer the world, but rather be the best at what we do. You are not your best until you receive a gold medal in everything you do.”
The cheese makers are acutely aware of the importance of choosing the right names for their cheeses. They stayed away from cliffs with mountain tops.
“Tingvoll used to be a suburb of Nidaros, and all our cheeses have a connection to local medieval characters.” Kraftkar is linked to the farmer boy Tore Nordbø and his supernatural power. According to legend, he was so big that he had to go through doors sideways.
Tingvoll has around 350 diverse customers – from small specialty corner shops to the chefs on Hurtigruten’s ships and Esben Holmboe-Bang at the Michelin starred restaurant Maaemo in Oslo. The contact with the customers has been vital for the cheese manufacturer's strategy.
“The world does not need copies. Kraftkar is unique, and it paid off.”