Lácteas San Vicente: How to Export Ibérico Cheese to Over 25 Countries
From traditional cheeses, like Ibérico cheese, to more innovative options, like fresh cheese with chocolate, Lácteas San Vicente has won over consumers in more than 25 countries.
This Spanish cheesemaker, with more than half a century in the business, is an example of how family-run companies are able to adapt to new international markets and new demands from consumers. They started off making a type of cheese with very close ties to Spanish tradition: the Ibérico cheese (made with a mix of milk from cows, ewes and goats), and they've been moving towards new formats in line with international consumers' trends and preferences.
They currently operate in over 25 countries, and their Ibérico Conde Duque cheese is still their most popular product, a tribute to Lácteas San Vicente's roots. To get a better understanding of the company's story, we interviewed its manager, José Antonio Rodríguez.
The company was founded in 1957. What are its main milestones?
The company was founded in 1957 by Marcelo Díaz in the town of Garrafe de Torío, in León province (Castile-León). After 25 years under his son's management, Fernando Díez Boñar, the factory moved to Navatejera, where it has been growing ever since.
In recent years, the facilities have been expanded to increase productive capacity, new processes have been developed to work on different types of formats, and new products, like melted and fresh cheeses, have been created.
Our facilities' proximity to the milk production area, in León and Asturias, and the fact that we collect our own milk allow us to make our products with fresh milk. This distinction is especially important when it comes to our fresh cheeses, which are made with milk collected the same day.
How have the company's products changed during your more than 60 years in business? What were your first cheeses like, and what are your most recent additions?
The product our company started with was a cheese made with a mix of raw milk—a mix that could be used today to make our Ibérico cheeses (i.e. milk from cows, ewes and goats). The process yields a very balanced cheese which has always been sold under the Conde Duque brand.
Then we started adding other mixed milk cheeses, other pure ewe's milk cheeses, goat's cheeses and, in the 1990s, fresh and melted cheeses. We have increased the number of formats we offer and we've worked on new packaging and flavors, such as fresh cheese with honey, dulce de leche, and chocolate.
In terms of internationalization, what role do exports play in Lácteas San Vicente's business strategy?
Seven years ago we created our export department, and we've continued to expand ever since. We believe exports play an important role in our growth strategy, due to consolidation in distribution in Spain, and also to the need to seek out new markets for which we can adapt our products to those consumers' consumption habits.
In how many countries are your products available? What are the main international markets and which products are the most successful among international consumers?
We're currently in 25 countries, and our main markets are Europe, America and Asia. Our most popular products are our Conde Duque Ibérico cheese, our very first product, and the fresh cheese we developed in the last year, which has a longer shelf life and allows us to reach new markets that we couldn't before.
What role do international awards play in your export plans? What international awards has the company received in recent years?
The accolades we received at the World Cheese Awards and those recognizing our innovation, such as the Innovation Award at SIAL 2018 for developing new cheese flavors, have enabled us to raise the profile of our products and ensure that consumers see them as quality cheeses.
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/@ICEX
Translation: Samara Kamenecka/@ICEX.