Quality cheese made by a maturing family business
TEXT: KARIN VENEMA | PHOTOS © HENRI WILLIG
When Henri Willig and his wife took over his parents’ dairy farm in 1974, little did they know that 40 years later they would be running a thriving cheese business. The cheese farms are a top tourist attraction with more than one million visitors a year, whilst their cheese is in high demand around the world.
Henri Willig makes cheese from regular, organic and biodynamic cow’s milk and regular and organic goat’s and sheep’s milk. They do not just produce the usual Dutch cheeses, but also specialities like Hooidammer. Their own organic Jersey farm is designed to stimulate the cows’ natural behaviour and make them as comfortable as possible. Henri Willig invites tourists and interested farmers alike to visit the organic farm and he hopes that everyone who visits the dairy and cheese farm learns something.
The family-run business is gradually expanding, with Henri Willig cheese now being sold at 25 of its own cheese shops, a popular webshop and via many exports. Cream rises to the top, and since the start of the economic crisis, Henri Willig has actually had a steady growth, opening shops all over Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands and even expanding abroad in Austria, Vienna.
“There is a real connection amongst the 400 people working for our company: we’re one big family. Just the other day, a customer that had visited our shop in Vienna handed a note to an Amsterdam shop assistant with the warmest regards from her colleague 1,100 kilometres away,” smiles Willig.
From the land to the customer, the whole process of making the best Dutch cheese specialities is executed with the greatest care. Henri Willig collaborates with 60 Dutch milk suppliers, which are carefully selected to ensure the quality of the milk that they work with. The systematic and safe production process ensures consistent quality, and has earned the company several awards for best cheese.
“Even after all these years, I love our cheese,” says Willig. “I am a real connoisseur and I love the variety that cheese has to offer. The other day I was giving the local councillor a tour around the cheese farm, and I tried a few cheeses with him. It still took me by surprise how tasty it was!”
The popularity of Henri Willig cheese is easily explained: it is very tasty, travels well and makes great gifts for friends and family.