Tasmanian artisan cheesemaker named Australian Business of the Year

Media Release, 23 August 2013

Artisan cheesemaker Bruny Island Cheese Co., founded by Nick Haddow after a 10-year odyssey working with specialist cheesemakers in Europe and Australia, has won the title of 2013 Telstra Australian Business of the Year.

The first Tasmanian business to take out the top award in the 21-year history of the Telstra Australian Business Awards, Bruny Island Cheese Co. was recognised not only for the quality of its cheese but also for the role it plays in sustaining local agri-tourism and supporting dairy farmers in the island community south-east of Hobart.

After growing up in Adelaide, Nick Haddow discovered his passion for good food, wine and cheese while studying hotel management and working in some of the city’s best restaurants. He experienced the manufacture of a huge range of cheeses in Europe before moving to Tasmania in 2001 to make cheese at Pyengana Dairy Company, eventually launching Bruny Island Cheese Co. in 2003.

Mr Haddow, an advocate and producer of raw milk cheese, said: “I am a traditionalist who recognises that great cheese was made for centuries before modern technology played a role and I believe passionately in the old way of making, maturing and marketing cheese.

“For me cheesemaking is a pursuit of integrity, authenticity and flavour. There is no substitute for quality. We are only as good as the last batch of cheese we made,” he said.

Bruny Island Cheese Co., which sells onsite, online and through email marketing to its 8300-strong member Cheese Club, also won the Small Business Award at the Telstra Australian Business Awards in Sydney tonight.

Mr Haddow was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2012 to investigate island culture and the unique characteristics that make island living both challenging and special. Born from an interest after living and working on many islands around the world, this week he was in Iceland as part of his study.

Other Awards winners came from a variety of sectors, including online Victorian health insurance company health.com.au, two Sunshine Coast businesses, helicopter pilot trainers Becker Helicopter Services and power generation product manufacturer ENIQUEST, and Blue Mountains luxury spa products supplier iKOU.

Will Irving, Group Managing Director of Telstra Business and Telstra Business Awards Ambassador, said the 2013 national winners and finalists were even more diverse than recent years, reflecting the weakening of mining-sector driven growth.

“There were more technology-based solutions coming from the businesses this year, more gender diversity in the finalists’ leadership, and a strong focus on substance and sustainability, both economically and in the broader social and environmental sense,” Mr Irving said.

“Bruny Island Cheese Co. is a role model for artisan food businesses in the 21st Century. It has a total focus on quality, customer experience and engagement, both online and onsite, innovation from paddock to plate and care for suppliers, staff, the local community and the environment.

“The awards judges were impressed by its innovative business model – artisan traditions using local produce, manual techniques and craftsmanship yet employing the latest technology in packaging, marketing and sales to provide a ‘sticky’ customer experience. It has a very strong commitment to engage other local artisan businesses to leverage the brand which also brings economic sustainability to many local businesses.”

The winners of the 2013 Telstra Australian Business Awards are:

Start-Up Award

health.com.au, Melbourne, Victoria
Finding the Australian health insurance offerings too complex, often plagued with asterisks and small print, Andy Sheats launched health.com.au with the vision of reinventing health insurance for younger, healthier Australians who want to interact online. Drawing on his online experience from his role at realestate.com.au, Andy and his team of insurance and digital experts, set about designing hassle-free policies that were easy to buy, understand and use and accessible at all hours. Judges said the company was the epitome of a first-class start-up, based around an effective web-based business model that offered a simple product.

Micro-Business Award

ENIQUEST, Warana, Queensland
Starting with little funding and operating from a small tin-shed, Don Pulver has built ENIQUEST into a successful Australian manufacturer of power generation products. The business, which develops unique and highly innovative products that are immune to overseas competition, has grown from humble beginnings to winning contracts with some of Australia’s largest organisations including the Australian Defence Force, BHP and Toll Australia. Judges said the company started operating in Australia when local manufacturing was contracting and the company now has significant export opportunities.

Small Business Award

Bruny Island Cheese Co. , Bruny Island, Tasmania

Medium Business Award

Becker Helicopter Services Pty Ltd, Marcoola, Queensland
Starting from a rundown tin shed, Mike and Jan Becker launched Becker Helicopter Services in 1995 in Noosa and its academy is now internationally recognised, attracting both civilian and military personnel, employing 70 people and operating 18 helicopters. Being the first civilian helicopter training academy to offer Advanced Night Vision Goggles training, which had previously been the domain of military aviators, has been critical to securing multi-million dollar international contracts. Judges said that with seven centres across the Sunshine Coast, the husband and wife team had displayed a tremendous passion for flying which had evolved into a company that specialised in training allied forces and night vision goggle flying.

Regional Award

iKOU, Blue Mountains, New South Wales
iKOU founders, husband and wife team Naomi and Paul Whitfeld, were stunned when a national retailer ordered 1.5 tonnes of their bath salts only weeks after they launched their wholesale spa product range in 2008. Today, their 500-strong product line featuring natural home grown skin care and body products, candles and organic herbal teas can be found in world-leading hotels and spas including Six Senses Luxury Resorts which operates throughout Asia. Judges said the company had displayed a very clear and focused vision from the outset and a passion for a profitable yet ethical business approach. It had been astute by mitigating its risks through diversifying from retail into premium hotels.

Telstra Australian Business of the Year

Bruny Island Cheese Co., Bruny Island, Tasmania

For more information about the Telstra Australian Business Awards or to nominate for the 2014 Awards, please visit the Telstra Business Awards website.