Unique Kobrin cheeses: emulated but never rivalled

When the local cheese factory brought its ice-cream to the small Polesie town of Kobrin for the first time, a queue of children and adults quickly formed, keen to try this ‘Soviet-style’ treat
By Yuri Chernyakevich

As soon as I enter Kobrin Butter-and-Cheese Plant, I’m told the anecdote. I can vouch for the fact that people are still prepared to queue for a taste of the delicious ice-cream, which harks back to ‘childhood days’ for many.

The secret of Kobrin ice cream’s popularity is simple; it’s made from whole milk and sweet cream, with no preservatives or artificial flavourings — just as in Soviet times. The true taste of childhood at the Kobrin plant is part of a diverse range:  over 150 types of milk, cottage cheese, butter and yogurt. Cheese making is at the heart of the enterprise though, with most locally produced cheeses exported.

We all know that dairy exports generate huge profits for the country, with the Russian market showing increased demand. According to the National Statistical Committee, almost $250m of cheese and cottage cheese and over $120m of butter were supplied to Russia from January-April 2013. In addition, Belarusian milk accounted for over 70 percent of all Russian milk imports. Milk is our ‘white gold’.

The Kobrin plant has been liaising with Russia for many years, their co-operation beginning with local cheese makers taking part in international exhibitions across our neighbouring state’s regions, as well as in Moscow. The capital is the biggest consumer of Kobrin cheeses in Russia, as Director Nikolay Misyuk tells us. Trading organisations in Russia, Moldova and Turkmenistan are buying the enterprise’s produce at a steady rate: worth almost $25m from January-July 2013. This year, a new cheese making facility has been launched, able to produce up to 30 tonnes a day, aiming to supply the CIS and domestic buyers.

The Kobrin brand is unique and so popular that some ‘entrepreneurs’ have even been trying to sell ‘fake’ versions of ‘Cherny Prints’ (Black Prince) cheese, resulting in a court case to defend the company’s rights.

The situation certainly shows that Kobrin cheeses are the focus of attention and envy — and that buyers should beware pale imitations.

The plant is always thinking of how to embrace its success further, creating new recipes. In fact, half of all its cheeses are individual to the enterprise. Last year, hard cheese production was launched, with produce sold not only in Kobrin but in Brest and Minsk.

Unsurprisingly, the Kobrin plant boasts many international contest prizes but its biggest achievement speaks for itself: popularity with customers. Quality is at the heart of this success, as those who love its ice-cream would agree.
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