It's hard to imagine a more popular food in the world than pizza. Lush soft dough with a crispy crust and fragrant spice-filled toppings... And then there’s the cheese – hot and delicious with tendrils that stretch in long threads when a slice is pulled from the pie. Though many variations of cheese may be used in any imaginable way, the classic option on any classic Italian pizza is, of course, mozzarella.
“Tender, mild and firm, mozzarella forms a thin crust that doesn't harden, while the delicate neutral flavour complements and reveals the other pizza ingredients without taking over. Another advantage of mozzarella is that there is no pungent smell when it is heated, which is sometimes the case with other cheeses,” says Olga Vorobieva. While she is not Italian, Vorobieva knows much about mozzarella. She is the production manager of Milk Masters – a factory here in Ukraine specialising in the production of fresh cheeses, including those used to top pizza, the group supplies mozzarella, cheddarella, and ricotta to Ukrainian cafés and restaurants.
Start from scratch
It all started in 2010. The company, without any experience in the manufacturing of cheese of any kind, decided to try their hand at the craft. Renting a small factory in the Kyiv region, they launched into learning how to make their own mozzarella.
“Specialists from Italy came over to teach us, as none of our employees had any experience in cheese production,” says Vorobieva. “Another difficulty was working with milk quality: initially we were unable to afford high quality milk, which was something the Italians were not used to. Following their lead, we switched to high-quality raw materials.”
When the number of regular customers began to grow, there was a need to expand the range of products and increase production volumes. As a result, the company decided to invest in their own factory, which was made possible thanks to a loan from Procreditbank realised within the framework of the SME Financing Mechanism – Stage II programme implemented by the European Investment Bank (EIB) under the EU4Business Initiative. Thanks to a preferential loan with reduced collateral, Milk Masters was able to buy the equipment they needed and, in 2019, Milk Masters moved into its own factory. Since then, the number of employees in the company has grown from 50 to almost 80 people and the volume of cheese production has increased by more than 70%.
Satisfying the requests of the client: a philosophy
Today, the company supplies cheese to the Ukrainian network of one of the most famous American pizzerias in the world – Domino's Pizza. The franchise cooperates with Milk Masters instead of importing cheese from American or Italian producers because the quality of products is so high. But that’s not all: Milk Masters also offers additional services, such as free logistics, recipe development, and individual packaging according to the needs of each client.
“One example is cutting mozzarella into cubes, giving our customers a product that's ready to use. Having done a part of the work already, the client receives the product, opens it up, and can get straight to work,” says Vorobieva.
Milk Masters’ next goal focuses not only on conquering the HoReCa segment, but the mass consumer, so that people come to understand that the iconic Italian pizza is hardly inferior, even with Ukrainian ingredients.