Julie Hinchliffe / Robe Dairy

Less than a year after David and Julie Hinchliffe began producing their own milk and cheese at Robe Dairy, the couple struck double gold at the Dairy Industry Association of Australia’s National Dairy Product Competition.

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“The Limestone Coast Collaborative will be great for the region because it recognises the terrific potential of the region, the benefits that a regional brand will bring, and the importance of getting it right through genuinely involving stakeholders and learning from other regions that have ‘got their act together’ in Australia and elsewhere in the world.” – Julie Hinchliffe, Robe Dairy

It was a dream beginning for the family-run boutique operation which was officially launched in 2014.

“Our first cheese off the ranks – Robe Dairy Labneh – not only received a gold medal and the highest score in its class, but took out the Savannah Bio Systems Perpetual Shield for the Highest Scoring Non-cheddar Cheese,” Julie explains, adding that the labneh received the second highest score for a cheese in the competition. “Meanwhile, our Jersey milk received a gold medal and the highest score in its class.”

Julie and David milk their own 20-strong herd of Jersey cows and process full cream unhomogenised milk, cloth-strained Yoghurt and Labneh in small batches on site.

“We treat our milk with respect, using slow, traditional methods to create high quality products full of flavour and local character,” Julie says.

The Robe Dairy range will soon include French-style cheeses, with future plans to open a Farm Shop. In the meantime, products are sold in stores across the Limestone Coast and in Adelaide, and feature in local restaurants and farmers markets.

How has the Limestone Coast region enabled you to create a successful brand or business?

Milking cows and making cheese is hard work and ties us to the farm, but we love where we live (we moved here nine years ago for a lifestyle change) and feel that we have everything we need here to sustain our energy and enthusiasm. Spectacular beaches are just a few minutes away, and Little Dip Conservation Park is within view (we can often hear the ocean). I love that our family can always find a little beach all to ourselves even in the busy holiday season. There are great places to walk, fish and four-wheel drive. It’s peaceful, the air is crisp and clean, and the scenery has that rugged ‘South Australian’ quality we value.

The other positive is the people. The broader Limestone Coast community seems very supportive of food and farming entrepreneurs; they recognise and appreciate hard work and we have found that whenever we need something, there is always a local who will go out of their way to help. We receive a lot of encouragement and all of our products sell very well across the region.

Where would you like to see the Limestone Coast region in the next 5 years in terms of brand recognition for the region, marketing of products and collaboration of industries?

I think the Limestone Coast, as it is now, is poised for promotion. It is already highly productive, exporting to the world, and unique and exciting as a tourist destination. Five years from now I hope to see more small-scale food producers and a strengthening and diversification of local inspired food experiences – vibrant farmers markets, produce swaps, providores, shared-use commercial kitchens and restaurants obsessed with local produce. As our region attracts more ‘tree changers’ and as local producers diversify, we might see more gourmet and seasonal food products, farm gate sales and ‘paddock to plate’ and ‘trawler to plate’ experiences, if this is what people want to do.

Personally, I’d like to see the words ‘Limestone Coast’ replace ‘South East’ in all forms of dialogue… so that ‘Limestone Coast’ becomes second nature.

And in five years, I hope our region has a brand that conveys both our sophistication and “rough around the edges” Limestone Coast character. For me, the region is about dusty gravel roads, caves and limestone, stunning wines, old stone cottages, brilliant blue seas and crayboats puttering out to sea. Where we live our soil is full of oyster shells – we see evidence of the ancient seafloor all around us. But what this region “is” differs from person to person – I am optimistic that five years from now, we will have a powerful regional brand that resonates with everyone in the Limestone Coast, and speaks to prospective visitors and investors. And I expect that the process of articulating our brand – and the final result – is likely to change and shape my own perceptions. Exciting times ahead!

What are some of the successes that you have achieved?

It has been a whirlwind year. The highlight has been winning two gold medals and a major trophy in the 2015 Australian Dairy Product Competition, which is run by the Dairy Industry Association of Australia. The competition received a record number of entries, over 1200, so we couldn’t be more pleased. Also, our Labneh has just earned another Gold at the South Australia Dairy Awards which run in conjunction with the Royal Adelaide Show.

Having our cheese and yoghurt available in the Adelaide Central Market Arcade is an exciting development for us, thanks to Limestone Coast’s Austar Mariculture. We feel privileged to have our products showcased alongside the Tsai family’s smoked ocean trout; an exceptional local food produced just down the road at Beachport. We’ve also got off to a terrific start at Frewville and Pasadena Foodlands, also known as Adelaide’s Finest Supermarkets. The support and feedback we’ve had from Adelaide shoppers has been so encouraging. Our yoghurt and labneh are also beginning to get members of Adelaide’s Greek community excited and that means a lot to us.

Other positive signs for us include good sales and customer loyalty across the Limestone Coast, enquiries from interested retailers, wineries and eateries throughout the region (we now have a wait list), phone calls and emails from very happy customers (both locals, Adelaide customers and visitors), and people coming up to us at farmers’ markets and at tastings to thank us and congratulate us on our business.

Regional Hero: Julie Hinchliffe
Robe Dairy, PO Box 94 Robe, South Australia 5276
Telephone (08) 8768 2626
www.robedairy.com