It seems a bit mad that I am only putting up our first blog post three years into setting up our business. But if any of you are involved in or know anyone involved in a small start up business you know how hard it is to juggle everything, so blogging had to take a back seat to, the more serious matters or making sheep’s yogurt and cheese, selling it and keeping up with customer enquiries and trying to build awareness, never mind the small matter of raising a family of four kids!
It’s clear however from reading all the best practice on how to build awareness on line that the more information you give you customers on line, the greater the chance that they will find you on line and hopefully convert to a customer. So my first blog post is going to be a summary of the most common questions we get asked and the answers we give to those questions. In future blog posts I’ll write more about the daily grind of a small food business and some of our highs and lows.
HOW DO YOU MILK A SHEEP?
We honestly get asked this all the time, for some reason people seem a bit embarrassed when they ask this, as if it’s a stupid question. It’s not, so much so we actually say on our pack of yogurt, “If you want to know how do you milk a sheep, we’d love to hear from you”. We milk our sheep exactly as cows are milked nowadays i.e. with a milking machine. The only difference is the machines are smaller and a sheep has two teats on her udder instead of four teats which a cow has.
DO SHEEP’S MILK PRODUCTS TASTE VERY DIFFERENT?
After the “how do you milk a sheep” question, this is the next most common question. Some people don’t even ask the question they just make what we call “The Sheep Face” when we ask them would they like to try a sample. We think this is because people think there is going to be a strong taste and or aroma similar to that which you get from goat’s milk products. Or people who have grown up on or near sheep farms think it will taste like “the smell” of sheep!. 99.9999 % of the time if we can convince someone to taste they are ALWAYS really surprised at how creamy and mild it is.
WHY IS SHEEP’S MILK SO GOOD FOR YOU?
There are links to scientific papers and lots more information on the home page of this website, but the summary is:
Sheep’s milk is higher in solid content than cows’ milk, which makes it thicker and creamier.
Sheep’s milk has a higher nutritional profile than cows’ milk, it is significantly higher in calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.
Sheep’s milk suits many people who have reactions and a sensitivity to cow dairy. This is because of the molecular make up of sheep’s milk and because the molecules are smaller and therefore passes through the gut quicker (is digested quicker) causing less of a reaction.
Sheep’s milk is naturally homogenised, this means that the fat globules are naturally floating around in the milk. We don’t have to mechanically homogenise (i.e. break up the fat globules) in our sheep’s milk before using it. However most of the cow’s milk you find on supermarket shelves must be mechanically homogenised before its bottled, because the manufacturers don’t want the cream separating out from the milk.
Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk products come from sheep, who are raised on grass, they graze on grass and clover pastures, in the unpolluted fields of Co. Mayo.
Velvet Cloud Sheep’ milk yogurt has NOTHING ADDED and NOTHING STRAINED away. It is unusual nowadays to find yogurt on a supermarket shelf that hasn’t be strained or had a thickener or a sweetener of some sort added to it.
Velvet Cloud Sheep’s milk yogurt has LIVE PROBIOTIC cultures in it.
Velvet Cloud Sheep’s milk yogurt and cheese have unusually high levels of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. This is according to the Department of Biological Sciences, in University College Limerick who have tested our milk and yogurt.
WHERE CAN I BUY YOUR YOGURT AND CHEESE?
There is a list of both yogurt and cheese stockists here on this website, we sell directly to these stores. You can also buy our products on line from Ardkeen Food Stores along with a range of other fabulous food producers. We also sell to a distributor who then sells on to health food stores all around Ireland, so if you can’t find us in your local store and have a health food store near you ask them to order it in for you. You can tell them it is stocked by the distributor Irish Independent Health Foods and there should be no problem getting it in for you.
WHY IS VELVET CLOUD NOT AVAILABLE IN MY LOCAL STORE?
We often get asked why can’t you sell it in our local shop, or how come it’s not available in this area/shop. As a small business selling chilled product, distribution (i.e. getting the product into shops) is our greatest challenge. We have to drive around in our own chilled van or pay someone (our distributor) to this for us. If a shop is not on our delivery route or is hundreds of kilometres from us here in Mayo it is often not commercially viable for us to send a van to that shop. The diesel would cost more than the sales to the shop, not to mention the time. As we grow, we are hoping that some of the large retailers in Ireland will buy from us under what is called central distribution. This means that we will deliver to one depot and the retailer will do the distribution.