How an Actress Helped Bring High-Quality Goat Cheese Mac to Your Kitchen
By Andrew Eccles
Milking goats in Minnesota was a strange new hobby for an actress from California. Frankie Lenzmeier’s friends in L.A. thought she was crazy for making the cross-country journey every weekend, but Frankie was committed to making her new relationship with a dairy farmer work.
Those weekly treks led to a marriage, as well as a new professional venture. Today, alongside her husband Dave, she is the co-owner of Stickney Hill Dairy, a leading supplier of high-quality cheese in the U.S., and they count Nestlé as one of their customers. The goat cheese used in Stouffer’s new Urban Bistro Cheddar and Goat Cheese Mac comes straight from Stickney Hill.
“Dave and I love goats,” Frankie tells me. “They’re one of the kindest animals you’ll ever meet — they follow you all around.”
A deep affection for the goats that provide their product is built into Stickney Hill’s business model. Their ‘Happy Goat Program’ insists upon the highest standards of care from the local farmers who supply the dairy, ensuring that their cheeses aren’t only high-quality, but also kind. Their commitment to sustainability and animal-friendly practices make Frankie and Dave ideal partners for us at Nestlé.
“Aside from a zero-tolerance policy towards cruelty, we also make sure every goat has plenty of space to roam, a steady supply of fresh water, and up-to-date medical records that we can access,” she says.
Because of the high number of goat farmers in the Minnesota countryside surrounding Stickney Hill, a sizable number of them from the Amish community, the dairy is able to source their milk from just a 2-hour radius around the facility. As local farmers keep them well supplied, they also keep their growing team of 25 employees busy making some of the best chevre around.
Today’s shoppers aren’t just looking for tasty affordable options. They also want to know producers have quality and safety top of mind. Frankie is clearly proud of Stickney Hill’s credentials in this space: “We’re a 20,000 square feet state-of-the-art facility,” she explains. “We have the highest SQF Lvl3 certification [meaning super comprehensive safety and quality management systems], and a geothermal air handling system which regulates the milk and cheese, keeping it at the perfect temperature from arrival to departure.”
This kind of innovation is exactly what Nestlé is looking for as we source ingredients for exciting new lines, such as Stouffer’s Urban Bistro.
“Our buyers are out meeting farmers and dairies, looking for the latest innovations in food, with a special focus on suppliers we can trust to keep consumers safe and source their product sustainably,” Ann, a Nestlé Procurement Manager based out of Solon, Ohio tells me.
“When Stouffer’s tell me they need goat cheese for a new product, I’m working to look at a range of diverse and innovative dairies who can best meet that need.”
The process of creating exciting new products begins long before you ever find it on the shelves of your grocery store. Katie, a Marketing Associate who was part of the team that helped developed Urban Bistro Cheddar and Goat Cheese Mac, explained the decision making that went into the over two-year development of the product.
"We’re always paying attention to trends, visiting restaurants and seeing what new items are appearing on menus, so we can help our consumers enjoy the same foods at home,” she says.
Stouffer’s has a long history of providing high-quality pasta options, which Katie believes is a great space to keep trying new things and pushing the envelope on flavor: “People know us for mac and cheese, so we wanted to bring them something really premium in that space. It’s surreal seeing it on a shelf after two years of work, but hearing people tell you they love it is what it’s all about — at the end of the day the goal is to create something delicious.”
A lot of work goes into making the product taste as good as possible, with teams of chefs from Nestlé culinary teams taking part in the creation of a new line. “The chefs start off by making a recipe which is the gold standard of flavor,” Kelsey, a Product Developer explains.
“Then we put that recipe through several stages of making it healthier and more affordable for the consumer. That could mean switching from cream to non-fat milk, for example, and making sure we still maintain the flavor the chefs developed. To ensure superior flavor, you have to source a great goat cheese.”
Stickney Hill is proud to be the suppliers of that goat cheese, and Frankie is proud of their involvement in Urban Bistro. “We are so glad to be part of the Stouffer’s family — we have the package framed in our kitchen.”
18 years ago, Frankie’s friends thought she was crazy for spending her weekends with goats in Minnesota. Today, looking at the framed keepsake in her kitchen, it’s clear Frankie was anything but crazy.