Cheese company celebrates 40 years with special garlic and herb gouda


Karikaas general manager and cheesemaker Diana Hawkins with one of their garlic and herb gouda...
Karikaas general manager and cheesemaker Diana Hawkins with one of their garlic and herb gouda cheeses. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Karikaas, Loburn’s multi award-winning cheese company, is celebrating 40 years in business this month by relaunching its garlic and herb goudas.

The Karikaas story began in 1984 when Karin and Rients Rypma moved to New Zealand from the Netherlands and established a small cheese-making factory in Loburn.

They came up with a unique name for their business which is derived from their names, Karin and Rients, and the Dutch word for cheese, kaas.

They sold the business to John and Heather Lamers, of Rolleston, and Diana and Alan Hawkins, of Loburn, in 2004.

Diana is the general manager of the company and a cheesemaker.

She says supermarkets had stopped taking their garlic and herb goudas because it wasn’t economical to make them in typical batches.

But customers had been asking for the cheeses again so it was decided to make smaller quantities and the company’s anniversary seemed like the perfect time to relaunch them.

Diana said ‘‘still being here in 2024’’ to celebrate the 40-year anniversary is a highlight, particularly after the January 19 Loburn fire.

That was a challenging day and for ‘‘a brief moment’’ she feared they would lose the factory, and their home which is on the factory site.

But they were determined to save both.

They spend hours putting out fires as they broke out around the house and the wider property ‘‘while the many fire brigades did their thing too’’.

Alan also remained vigilant throughout the night and early morning extinguishing breakout fires.

There have been other challenges, too.

‘‘The earthquakes in 2010 and 2016 had a significant financial impact on the business,’’ Diana said.

‘‘The uncertainty of the Covid years was also pretty challenging, but we remained open for production just not the shop.

‘‘The worst happened only once when all staff were away at once, but because Karikaas is my home, I made yoghurt on my own with Alan assisting.

‘‘We got all the product out that we needed, and it was very memorable, especially for Alan.’’

That was a highlight. But there have been many others for the business, including multiple awards - Best NZ Cheese in 2005, Best Dutch Cheese for the first time in 2007, Best NZ Original Cheese in 2016 and Best European Cheese in 2020.

But the most memorable award was Henk Lettink winning the Cheesemaker of the Year Award in 2010, Diana says.

‘‘The Cheesemakers Association eventually had to tell me so that I could try to convince Henk to come to Auckland to collect his trophy.

‘‘He didn’t want to come, and said he wanted to make good cheese while I was away, so I had to tell him that he had won, and would he come with me and still he wouldn’t,’’ Diana says.

‘‘Henk spent 25 years at Karikaas and embodies everything that is good. His attention to detail, his commitment to Karikaas and the people, and quality products and work ethic etc.

‘‘Henk was a beautiful man, with the biggest of hearts, and winning the Cheesemaker of the Year was a glorious way of celebrating his skill. It was Henk who taught me to make Karikaas cheese.’’

Diana says the company’s longevity owes to the staff and their dedication to creating high quality products.

‘‘The primary reason is quality — staff committed to producing the highest quality products possible.’’

By Shelley Topp