What the world needs now …
is sweet Norwegian brown cheese
Starting this month, potential conflicts among the great powers of the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council are piling up on the conference table. The small nation of Norway enters the world stage offering “brown-cheese diplomacy.”
Norwegian U.N. ambassador Mona Juul began her first term as president of the U.N. Security Council in New York this week.
January is Norway’s first month of leadership, after the small northern European nation was elected as a new member of the U.N.’s most important tool for conflict resolution in an increasingly restless world.
On this occasion, the Norwegian U.N. delegation presented the traditional Norwegian brown caramel cheese, known under its U.S. brand name—Ski Queen—as a symbolic gift to the other member states.
Does the Norwegian government hope the sweet taste of the Norwegian brunost might ease the brewing tension among the global powers? Not really, but still: “The council members of the U.N. Security Council will get an exciting taste of our country when Norway now initiates its presidency period in the council,” wrote agricultural and food minister Sandra Borch on the ministry’s website.
Brown cheese—the peacemaking machine
It`s a tradition that the new chair nation marks the start of its presidency by presenting cultural markers as a symbolic gift to the other member states.
Therefore, the national delegations from the member states, among them Kenya, Ireland, India, Russian Federation, the United States, and China, each was offered a Norwegian milk chocolate bar and a block of brown cheese with a traditional cheese slicer as gifts from Norway’s delegation.
The fact that Norway chooses to show off the brown cheese as a new export brand on the international arena is not random. In 2021, the dairy company TINE exported between 700 and 800 tons of brown cheese produced with milk from Norwegian cows and goats.
“As Norwegicana as one can get being a cheese”
In the last three years, exports of TINE brown cheeses increased by more than 30%.
The TINE cooperative dairy hopes the world will love the taste of this cultural treasure—just as Norwegians have done for generations.
“It is incredibly nice that our own traditional brown cheese is part of the gift to the Security Council’s member countries from Norway. Made in Norway, with Norwegian cow and goat milk, this cheese has been an important product for our dairy company since 1863. It is one of the most traditional, and Norwegicana, as one can get being a cheese,” said the thrilled CEO of TINE, Gunnar Hovland.
“Most distinctive of all Norwegian cheeses”
The caramelized brown cheese saw its first light of day at Solbråsetra mountain farms in the Gudbrand Valley in 1863, invented by a local woman, Anne Hov.
In recent years, the brown cheese has gained international attention.
The brown cheese that has been around for 150 years is particularly suitable as an international export product representing Norwegian agriculture: “Norway is on its way of becoming an internationally recognized food producer with great diversity and high quality. Ski Queen is an important part of this diversity and is perhaps the most traditional and distinctive of all Norwegian cheeses,” said Borch.
Made by cooperative farms
More than 9,000 dairy farmers own TINE as a cooperative. The dairy has also a social mission: The profit from the dairy products produced by the TINE cooperative is paid back as a dividend to its milk farmers.
In 2021, almost NOK 1.1 billion was paid in dividend to farmers and their families across Norway. In the United States, TINE is cooperating with farmers in Ohio to make the famous Jarlsberg cheese, which was recently named among Europe’s tastiest cheeses, by CNN Travel.
Hovland thinks this company model creates enormous ripple effects for the districts, cities, and communities where TINE operates.
“The unique quality and environmental sustainability of TINE`s dairy production and the recognition of the socially sustainable outcome for our cooperative farmers we hope will matter more in future markets,” said the CEO.
“Not just for some”
Hovland believes Ski Queen will be an important part of TINE’s international ambitions to keep growing outside Norwegian borders, potentially providing an important addition to the already internationally recognized Jarlsberg cheese.
“If we manage to succeed internationally with our brown cheeses, local communities across Norway will benefit, especially dairy farmers and their families,” said Hovland.
His hope now is that this sweet Norwegian brown cheese will be not just for Norwegians but for everyone.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 21, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.