Friday, 21 April 2023, 11:03
Finding a niche in the market in a particular field is something that many entrepreneurs and business owners dream of achieving, although many fail to find a product that becomes an almost instant success. One young Dutchman believes that he might just have succeeded, although his venture seems to be taking off in a slightly different direction than he first imagined.
A former chef in the Dutch Navy, 22-year-old Lodewijk van Venetiën first visited Spain during his teens, and returned to set up home in Malaga in June 2021. He began working as a chef on the coast, but quickly decided to open a business of his own.
With no background in the cheese industry in Holland, Lodewijk's love of "good food", and seeing as he particularly missed "decent" Dutch cheeses, he decided to open a shop that specialises in Gouda, the creamy, cow's milk cheese that originated in the Netherlands.
Lodewijk found suitable premises in the Mercado de Mercedes in the heart of historic Malaga, and began by opening his shop, Craxíqueso, just at the weekends. This was in November 2022, and the shop became so popular that the Dutchman was forced to offer full-time opening hours from the beginning of last month.
"I moved to Spain with the idea of maybe setting up a business after a few years, but it happened a lot quicker than I had imagined. It began to take off and it got to the point when I had to phone my sister, who was living and studying in Valencia at the time, to come to Malaga to help run the shop," Lodewijk told SUR in English.
The shop stocks a wide range of different Gouda cheese, and he had obviously had the large Dutch community in mind as possible clients, but Lodewijk was surprised by the number of Spanish customers he began to receive in the first few weeks of opening.
"I am very happy with how the shop has taken off, especially as the Spanish people, who have a reputation for preferring hard cheese, like it. This is important, because I don't want to have to rely solely on Dutch residents," he said.
One of the things the young entrepreneur prides himself on is the quality of the cheese he sells, which, he claims, is more flavoursome than the supermarket brands.
The cheeses are still made on farms in the Netherlands from raw cow's milk, and it is recognised by the European Union as a traditional speciality, just like the Spanish Manchego cheese. The result, he claims, is a "taste of a real authentic Gouda cheese".
"You can obviously buy Dutch cheese in the supermarket, but it is factory produced, so it obviously tastes a lot different to what I sell, which are based on a centuries-old tradition. I have quite a lot of Spanish customers, who like the spicy types that I offer, and also the British, who, it seems, also appreciate good Gouda," Lodewijk explained.
Gouda is one of the world's most popular cheeses, although the name is used today as a general term for numerous similar cheeses produced in the traditional Dutch manner. It is one of the oldest cheeses that is still made today - its first mention in writing was in 1248.
Although Lodewijk offers cheese that adheres to this age-old custom (some of them are matured for two years), he also offers a range of artisanal products like green pesto, truffle or fenugreek cheese, to one of his most popular among the large Dutch community of the Costa, traditional Dutch Gouda.
"We have a lot of Dutch people living in Malaga, but we are also attracting Dutch customers from all along the coast and also inland. Many of these people really miss their cheese, which is good for my business," he said.
Along with his shop in Malaga, Lodewijk also has an online site, which is attracting interest from all over the world: he is also hoping to start promoting his cheese at some of the different food markets and fairs that feature cuisine from around the world that are staged in the province throughout the year.
"My first online sale came from the Czech Republic, and I have since had orders from places like India and France.
"I would also like to expand the business by promoting Dutch cheese at some of the food festivals, especially events like the international feria in Fuengirola. I applied this year, but was too late, but I am hoping to be there next year," he concludes.
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