Zany Zeus creating new cheese, icecream

EDUCATOR: Michael Matsis at his cheesemaking business, Zany Zeus, in Lower Hutt.
EDUCATOR: Michael Matsis at his cheesemaking business, Zany Zeus, in Lower Hutt.

Lower Hutt Greek dairy products manufacturer and retailer Zany Zeus is turning to soy to capture the lactose- intolerant market.

The maker of haloumi cheese, smoked yoghurt, icecream and organic milk is perfecting recipes for yoghurt, milk and icecream based on soy.

"I'm using a real extracted soy, a very natural soy milk which is just the soy beans and filtered water. That's my base, then I'm just using a little bit of soy protein, soybean oil," said Michael Matsis, who founded Zany Zeus with sister Meropi in 2000.

"We want to put a bit of research and development into making better tasting soy yoghurt, a really nice tasting soy milk and really good soy icecream."

Zany Zeus has been selling a soy icecream at its Moera store in Lower Hutt since it opened the retail outlet in March. Matsis said it was one of his "little pet projects". He expected to have the new products on sale by June.

Traditional Cypriot haloumi is Zany Zeus's signature product, sold directly to select retailers around the country through its network of about eight distributors and directly to restaurants from Waiheke Island to Dunedin.

Opening the retail store significantly lifted sales and production, with five extra staff brought in. Every week, sales of its organic milk, Zorganic, made with an HTST pasteurisation system reach about 200 litres. It sells about 120 kilograms a week of Greek yoghurt and 350 litres of dairy icecream with flavours such as almond brittle and feijoa.

"We have been doing a lot of work at the moment on a Greek yoghurt icecream, trying to keep the product as natural as we can. Obviously it has been a lot of trial and error, it is not easy and not a case of just slapping things in.

"You need to be able to balance sugar, fats, the right amount of water."

Matsis said Zany Zeus was still finding its feet with the retail site but it had good growth, controlling volumes of production so it did not put too much pressure on the whole system.

Consumer awareness of paneer, a cheese popular in Indian dishes, was growing with in-store tasting sessions.

"We had a friend of ours, an Indian lady, making paneer dishes on Saturday and people just rock on in and get to try an application of the product, take a recipe home. I think the palate in New Zealand is improving," Matsis said.

"We are working very closely with a chef helping to streamline a whole set of recipes around the products to educate people and get more in-house tastings, really create it as a functional educational spot where people can pop in and learn about milk and dairy."

The Dominion Post