Özgazi’s main products include a soft white feta-style cheese, a ‘combi’ product that is similar to cheese, and Ayran, a traditional yogurt style drink. “We are unique in that we use three kinds of milk in our various products: cow, sheep and goats milk,” says Harry Kil, Commercial Director. “However, only one type of milk is used in each individual cheese, we do not mix them together.”
0% of the milk used comes from cows and the final 20% is divided between sheep and goats milk. Consumers can choose from three different fat contents: 45%, 55% and 60%. The cheese comes in tins, individual plastic wraps and buckets that contain small blocks of cheese stacked on top of one another.
At first, the company only produced tinned cheese that was normally sold in specialty stores that carried Turkish-style cuisine. Over the last few years, the firm realized that appreciation for the type of cheese it produces was growing, so it started doing business with distributors that work directly with large supermarket chains.
Today, Özgazi’s product range is available in 43 countries and that number is expected to grow. One way the firm differentiates itself from its major competitors is through its efficient production. “Most of our production lines are automated,” says Mr. Kil. “Our main line is 70 meters long, has robots that portion out the cheese, is overseen by two employees and runs continuously.”
This automated process also helps keep everything more hygienic. The curd is placed in either an 85 mm or 110 mm diameter cassette to ripen. There are 45 cheeses per cassette and 19 cassettes are stacked on top of one another. The cassettes are on a belt that turns them upside down four times over the course of nine hours. This movement presses the cheese together in a natural way, which helps the whey leak out. After about 16 hours, the cheese is packaged into tins with brine.
The product then cools and ripens in the tin for about four days. It is then ready to be packaged into boxes and shipped. Around 60,000 kg of cheese is produced every day. To further speed up the production process, Özgazi makes the tins that are used to store the cheese and owns and operates a large warehouse. Clients can buy products by the pallet or truckload, which consists of 33 pallets. “At any given time, we have 2,500 pallets in stock,” adds Mr. Kil. Customers can order in advance or on an individual basis.
Packaged products come in 400 g, 800 g or 21 kg varieties. The largest quantity is mostly purchased by those in the horeca sector. Due to the large warehouse, its own tin production and its automated lines, the company is able to invest in different products.
One of these investments, its ‘combi’ product, paid off and has opened up new markets for the business, particularly ones in the Middle East. ‘Combi’ is like cheese, but it isn’t. The animal fat has been removed and replaced by palm oil. This gives the product a unique taste and texture. It has become so popular that all of Özgazi’s private label customers have picked up the product.
“There’s such a high demand that we have three shifts running, seven days a week in order to keep up the supply needed to fill all of our orders,” explains Mr. Kil. Ayran, a drink similar to buttermilk but saltier, is a favourite among its distributors that operate in Turkey or sell to specialty stores.
Due to its ability to easily include new products into its range, the firm is considering adding yogurt in the near future. Other plans for the business moving forward include increasing the sales and production of all of its existing products, and entering new markets.
“We have the capability to produce 150 kg a day, so we’re ready for expansion,” adds Mr. Kil. Furthermore, the company is aiming for more innovation via its custom-made machines and automated factory.