After spending 17 days in five cities and several remote villages in India as part of the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Group 12 international trip, I am back at my computer and ready to talk cheese.

While I was away, Wisconsin was in the news in New Delhi’s The Sunday Express. On the front page was this headline: “Italian cheese sold in the U.S., Made in India.”
Turns out that “Winsconsin-based Artignale Italiano” is collaborating with Man Mohan Malik, an Indian entrepreneur who while at a food exhibition in Germany a couple years ago, saw an Italian stall promoting water buffalo milk cheese as a delicacy. Once he saw that the water buffaloes on the promo pictures were just the same as the ordinary Indian buffaloes (70 percent of the world’s buffalo population lives in India), he knew what he had to do.

Malik was soon visiting mozzarella plants in Italy, absorbing everything he saw, and soon he started producing mozzarella cheese with partner Raffaele Cioffi. The pair gave exclusive contracts to Indian farmers on the condition they would not mix cow’s milk and water buffalo milk to sell to the company.

Their cheese plant, which opened in March 2006, has the capacity to produce 14.9 million pounds a year of specialty mozzarella cheese. The company, listed on the Indian Stock Exchange, registered a 91.27 percent growth in net profits for the quarter that ended September 2007.

In the U.S., the cheese will soon be available in Costco and Trader Joe’s. The company’s next step is to launch Italian frozen cheeses in the Indian market. The company has partnered with India’s largest company, Reliance to retail its cheese in India under the brand name Bufalabella.