"They make cheese in Barbados?!" That’s the response that my guest on season 3, episode 2 of the Backstage with Bajan Brands podcast gets when she shows up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to international cheese events. That’s the response she got from me when I first sampled her products at a very popular all-inclusive event during Barbados’ Crop-Over festival 4 years ago.
Andrea Power isn’t shy about her love for dairy. She grew up milking cows with her dad who was the consummate DIY guy, always culling things together to make something new. So it’s probably no surprise that his daughter’s love for a little experimentation landed her on a product that has now morphed into the Hatchman’s Premium Cheeses brand.
Novelty is the number one reason why Hatchman’s is on my list of favourite Barbadian brands. There's certainly no other cheese producer that I’m aware of on the island. With anywhere between 14-17 dairy farmers supplying the island’s sole milk processing facility, Barbados Dairy Industries (Pine Hill Dairy), neither they nor the Dairy produces cheese. In my search for cheesemakers in the Caribbean, I’ve come across two others, one in Jamaica and the other in Trinidad, and neither of them are Caribbean nationals. So it seems both the nationality of the producer and the country in which it is produced makes Hatchman’s truly novel. But here are a few other reasons why Hatchman’s should be a prized Barbadian brand.
Bajan food culture: food and culture go hand in hand and just like how Melissia Batson of Jem’s Gourmet Chocolates uses ingredients that give a nod to Barbadian food culture so does Power through various cheese flavours including Scotch Bonnet Jack. She says, “We Barbadians like cheese cutters and we like cheese cutters with pepper sauce. Scotch bonnet gives you the flavour of a cheese cutter without the bread. So I’ve taken things that are distinctively Barbadian and incorporated them into my product so that people can identify with them.”
Value-added: As Andrea put it, “one of the things that I felt, or I couldn't quite understand was why we have all of this milk being produced and why we're just only producing milk and not going a step further.”
The local dairy industry has had its challenges, with the Barbados Beef and Dairy Producers Association noting in 2019 that the number of farms had fallen to 16 down from 39 just six years prior. The increased cost of production and the effect on milk quality by drought conditions were two main concerns cited at the time, but no discussion of going beyond primary commodity production into exploring derived commodities made headlines.
Story, story, story: the idea of kneading elements of Bajan culture into cheese is nothing in comparison to the recount of family, adversity, love, and tradition that’s behind how Andrea came to make cheese. Even the account of why the name Hatchman’s rather than the family name, Power, is a funny anecdote characteristic of how Caribbean people skilfully concoct nicknames. I mentioned Andrea’s father before. Hatchman was his nickname and Andrea never knew why until the day of his funeral. She revealed the backstory during our interview.
Employee ownership: Andrea is ensuring that the family tradition isn't confined there. Her tiny team of employees are also part-owners in the business - a decision she made early. She put it this way, “when I saw how invested my staff was, I wanted them to be able to evolve to the point where they could go to the bank and get a mortgage because of their job at Hatchman's. I wanted them to take over Hatchman’s and continue it. And I know that they have the same passion that I do.”
Listen to the full interview here.