THE Macroom based Toon Bridge Dairy has become just one of four producers to be awarded one of the country's most prestigious national food industry awards.
The dairy has been honoured with an Irish Food Writer's Guild (IFWG) food award, widely regarded one of the highest accolades within industry, for its buffalo mozzarella cheese.
The dairy began production in 2011 and was the culmination of a two-year collaboration between Real Olive Company founder Toby Simmonds and his neighbouring farmer, Johnny Lynch.
Speaking to The Corkman Toby said the idea, which involved importing buffalo from Italy, was initially met with a fair degree of scepticism. "I don't think many people even believed it at first," he laughed.
"The key for us was that we had a great farmer in Johnny and an incredible cheesemaker in Sean Ferry who has been making cheese since he was 16," said Toby.
"We won an award for our cheese back in 2011, but the IFWG award is a really big one for us, giving our mozzarella, which is sold in more than 25 markets across the country, huge national exposure," he added.
Toby said that the Irish grass makes all the difference to the taste of the cheese. "In Italy the buffalo are factory farmed, here they are allowed to graze openly. In fact, when we took delivery of our first buffalo they were so used to being fed in their sheds that they did not want to graze," he said.
"Now we get Italian visitors coming back to us for cheese as they say it has something special above their own home produced stuff," he added.
For more on the Toon Bridge Dairy visit www.therealoliveco.com.