Gerhard Reinecke is the founder of Alpages, the company which brings the world’s finest Swiss alpine cheeses to the UK.
Alpages.co.uk reflects the way in which alpine cheese makers live to create their products: It’s all about simplicity. By offering only a small selection of genuine Swiss alpine cheese variations, Alpages help you to simplify your life, too. Our cheeses don’t come from an anonymous source – we know the cheese makers, we know the farmers, we even know the names of some of their cows. That’s how we make sure to get the best products for you. Alpages is simple luxury.
As huge cheese fanatics here at House of Coco, Alpages was a business that we had to find out more about.
Here, Gerhard talks to us about his business, plans for the future and so much more…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
I launched my luxury cheese brand, Alpages of Switzerland, in the June 2017. Alpages brings genuine Swiss alpine cheeses from small artisan producers to the UK. Only 2% of Swiss cheese production is alpine cheese. It is allowed to be called as such only when it is crafted according to organic principles at altitudes above 1000 meters, only in summer and directly on the mountain farms where the fresh raw milk stems from.
I wondered how cheese lovers in London and the UK were at all able to live without these exceptional cheeses. So I decided to come to the rescue and make them accessible – they deserve it.
What’s your background?
I grew up on a mountain in Switzerland – small production alpine cheese was part of my childhood. When I moved to London three years ago, I remembered the quality of this kind of cheese and realised how unique it actually is. I was surprised that “Foodie London” hadn’t discovered it yet and decided to introduce it to the UK market. I spent all my professional life in marketing (I had my own advertising agency in Switzerland), so I knew what I was doing – for so many years, I was creating and assisting brands for other people, it was time to do it for myself…
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
So far, I rely pretty much on myself. But I’m helped big time by my wife, Tonya, and friends like artisan cheese maker Mark Samuelson and photographer Steve Wood who shoots all my products in his studio. In Switzerland, I work together with Lee Aspinall who is my “Affineur” i.e. he looks after our cheeses and matures them to perfection in our own cellars.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
Although “slow food” is my business, I would try to move quicker and get to market faster. I slowed down the process by always trying to find the best solutions, getting too deep into detail.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
Red tape is, of course. an issue. But the biggest obstacle lies in the nature of the products itself: You have to invest in stock years before you can sell, you have to be kind to your cheeses and wash and brush them weekly, keep them at the right humidity and temperature. And if you run out of stock, you can’t just order more from your suppliers. You have to wait until next October, when they allow you buy the cheese they’ve produced during the summer months. Then you have to wait again until the cheese is matured enough to show its full potential. Just to see the £ dropping tremendously against the Swiss Franc during all this time…
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
Facts about my products are more interesting than about me: Genuine alpine cheese not only tastes great, but is also very healthy, compared to other cheeses. The cows find a vast selection of over 100 different varieties of herbs and grasses on their alpine meadows. These are the “secret” ingredients for rich and tasty milk which can’t be found anywhere else. Studies show that cheese made from fresh alpine milk contains up to five times more essential fatty acids (Omega 3, Omega 6) than Emmental or cheddar.
But if you really pressed me… most people don’t know that I am good at the waltz (I’m able to count to three…just).
2018 is soon here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
I will continue to establish Alpages as a high-end brand among food and cheese lovers all over the UK and add some equally high-end products.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Every customer who is delighted by the taste of our cheese is a highlight.
Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
What is a “beauty product”?
Being yourself without getting in the way of other people.
Best thing about London to you?
The Londoners. They are very tolerant in a “live and let live” kind of way – but still always ready to help you.
Statement shoe or statement bag?
Bag. Blue Ikea shopping bags. They can hold up to three wheels of my favourite cheese.
If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
Favourite love song?
Any cheesy one will do.
Best place for a coffee?
The Pear Tree Café at the lake in Battersea Park.
Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
Don’t give up.
Cheese, of course. But then, I don’t feel really guilty about it. By the way: Switzerland’s cheese consumption per head is double that of Britain. So every Brit can double their intake without having to feel guilty, it’s just a matter of keeping up with the Joneses.
If you could spend 24 hours anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Wherever my wife Tonya and our daughter Sophia are.
In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
There is a lot of space in the idea of “simple luxury.” I hope I’ll be able to fill it.
Find out more…