In 2011 Alice Crawford completed her BSc (Hons) in Food Science, and went to work for the Puhoi Valley cheese factory. In August 2014, Alice Crawford moved from Puhoi, to work for Lion. First she was based at their head office in Melbourne, where she was involved in Research and Development for their Cheese making branch. Now she is based in Tasmania, working at Lion's new cheese manufacturing plant … moving from handcrafted cheeses, to a massive state of the art production unit processing 80 million litres of milk each year!
“Our new plant is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, and it opened in May 2015. It's absolutely state of the art, with high tech European automated processes – that gives us control and consistency of product, and it allows us to process a huge volume of milk!”
Alice's focus is on research and development and she has been intimately involved in the upgrade of Lion's speciality cheese plant in Northern Tasmania. She found the skills and information she learned studying Food Science at Otago incredibly useful in her new and challenging role.
“My fourth year project work was on cheese and that really increased the value of my studies. I also had experience with relevant software tools - that scientific background helps to understand the scientific processes involved in cheese-making – there are so many variables and you need to understand those, factor them in to avoid problems early!”
Right now Alice is spending as much time as possible in the new plant – learning about the new equipment and getting to know the people: the new plant has a staff of 350! Having a store of maturing cheeses from the old plant allows her to check for consistency between old and new product; once the new processes are finalised the old plant will be completely de-commissioned.
“The composition of milk changes with the seasons – mainly it's the casein that changes, and with dry weather the milk is more concentrated and fattier. It's important to understand how those changes will impact on the cheeses – how the flavour compounds are affected, for example the sharpness you get with the breakdown of proteins. “
Alice is making the most of her experience and her theoretical/ scientific background - and thoroughly enjoying the challenges of making speciality cheeses on a grand scale.