Tihi Hipi (Maori for sheep’s cheese) is Chloe Saxton (CEO), Lucy Oliver (Marketing), Emma Barker (Communications), and Kun-Ka Leger (Product Development). The Budding entrepreneurs are taking part in the Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme (YES), an experiential programme where students set up and run a real business. Each YES company creates their own product or service and brings this to market.
The group currently have three opulent soft cheese flavours for purchase - a delicate native kawakawa and manuka honey, and a plum, walnut and manuka honey jam. They also have herb and garlic infused cream cheese spheres. All are made fresh for market. The sheep’s milk is sourced from Spring Sheep Dairy, based near Lake Taupo. The creamy milk which has nearly twice the solids (fat and protein) of cow or goat milk produces deliciously succulent cheeses.
The four students, supported by mentors Ken Williamson from the Institute of Directors and Shane Kells from the New Zealand Food Innovation Network, identified a gap in the market for locally-made sheep’s cheese.
“Sheep’s milk is extremely high in nutrients compared to other kinds of commercially available milk,” says Chloe. “It is also more readily digestible to people who suffer from lactose intolerance. Sheep milk is also recommended for those suffering eczema, asthma, or other allergic illnesses.”
Chloe also points out that the composition of sheep’s milk is very similar to human milk meaning it can be digested faster.
The environmental advantages were also not lost on the group when developing their product.
“Sheep are efficient producers, only needing 100% grass to produce milk. The milking is sustainable with no effluent run-off and there are no methane emissions,” says Chloe.
After their win in the Trade Fair and a five-minute pitch of their business idea in the regional Dragons' Den, Tihi Hipi will now submit their annual review and will wait to see if they have been selected as regional YES finalists. In the meantime, they will be selling their cheeses at local farmers markets and experimenting with new flavour combinations for their blossoming business.
Anyone interested in purchasing Tihi Hipi sheep’s milk cheese can email email@example.com