One thing that impresses tourists visiting Croatia is the quality of cheese. There are a number of cheese producers in the country who produce world-class cheese. One of them is Paška sirana from the island of Pag.
They have won a number of World Cheese Awards and their reputation is growing internationally. Paška sirana exports today around Europe, to Asia, and to the United States.
The story about Paška sirana in not just another story about one family’s business success. It is a story about generations of island families who have breathed together the salty island air, who have despaired over their flock during cold winters and droughts of summer, a story about hundreds of hardworking hands who gave cheese its form, by bringing in it, longing for slower times and warmer households.
The thing that unites them for more than 70 years is care of Paška sirana, which emerged from the idea of fellowship and solidarity.
The vision of the founders managed to brand the cheese from the island of Pag (Paški sir) even during those hard times and enabled hundreds of families to survive on this harsh island rock where only a few herbs grow. The driving force of Paška sirana is manifested in every pore of island’s life. She is a strong pillar of Pag’s economy, a part of Pag’s identity.
Paška sirana was established in 1946 as an agricultural community. Its history is connected strongly with the history of Croatia because it has undergone different organizational forms until 1992 when it became a private company.
Today, Paška sirana produces more than 10 types of cheeses, employs over 85 people from Pag and exports to the US, to Europe and Asia from its new production plant which was built in 2008 to meet the European standards for food safety and quality.
“All of our cheeses were awarded on the many competitions in Croatia and abroad. The most important medals were from World Cheese Awards where our cheeses; Dalmatinac & Paški sir cheese were awarded as The best Central & Eastern European cheese in 2012. & 2016,” Paški sir says.
Paški sir is the most famous Croatian cheese, made from the milk of Pag sheep exclusively. Paška sirana has its own heard of sheep of which it gets only 15% of needed milk. The rest of the required milk is bought from its cooperators, 100 families that have their own little heard of sheep and sell milk to the cheese factory.
Paški sir cheese has won many competitions worldwide and put Croatia on the global cheese map thanks to all of the three cheese factories that exist.
“We can proudly say that story of Paški sir cheese started here, in Paška sirana, because we were first that gave the label to Paški sir cheese, first that launched it in shops outside of Pag, first that won a medal for it and first that made a brand from Paški sir cheese. So, we like to say that Paška sirana is ‘mother’ of Paški sir cheese,” they add.
Paška sirana exports cheeses to the United States via its partner Forever Cheese from Long Island, New York.
“They have done a lot for the promotion of Paški sir cheese in the United States. A number of American magazines have written about our cheese, and it has been presented at many good promotion events and fairs,” said Martina Pemar, Marketing Manager at Paška sirana.
Martina visited a number of shops where Paški sirana cheeses are sold in Manhattan, New York back in 2018.
“I visited Whole Foods and Murray’s cheese shop & bar. We sell Paški sir & Dalmatinac in the United States. I am very grateful to Forever Cheese company for doing a great job in promoting Paški sir cheese in the United States and elsewhere because they are really cheese experts and they are very involved in the cheese and food industry,” she said after her visit.
Paška sirana’s cheeses were featured also in Culture Cheese Magazine.
In December, Paška sirana launched something completely new – cheese spreads.
“This is something completely new for us. We bought the machine for cheese spreads and for one year we were developing this product which launched in December. For now we have 2 spreads: Classic (from mixed milk, sheep & cow ) and with truffles. First reactions are great and we are so happy and excited for this new products especially because this is something completely new in Pag cheesemaking,” Martina said.
Despite the coronavirus crisis, Paška sirana also started to export to a new market, the Ukraine, and are excited for what lies ahead.