From what was once a bakery in industrial Shepparton, a small processing company is doing things differently in the big dairy town.
In 2016, Kisaan – which means “farmer” in Punjabi – started making Indian-style cheese before switching to non-homogenized milk.
Owners Jaspreet Singh and Surinder Singh (no relation) met in Melbourne after arriving in Australia in 2006 and drove taxis and trucks before starting a dairy processor.
“When I moved to Shepparton I knew it was a hub for dairy farms and there was plenty of milk,” Jaspreet said.
“We also knew there was a large Indian community growing up in Melbourne and we felt we could start making fresh, authentic tasting produce.”
Kisaan’s most popular product is unhomogenized pasteurized milk with the cream still on top, which Jaspreet and Surinder say tastes just like the one they grew up with.
“Culturally, dairy is a very important part of the Indian diet and the authentic taste is missing here in cheese and yogurt,” Surinder said.
“The milk is popular because it’s not homogenised and older people also like it because they used to buy it here in Australia decades ago.”
At first, Kisaan mainly fulfilled commercial orders from Indian sweets producers, but in 2020 they came across a new market when Melbourne was locked down.
“There was one day I had about 1,000 liters in the van on the way to Melbourne and I heard on the news that Victoria was going into lockdown,” Jaspreet said.
“All the customers were closing their doors and they didn’t want any milk.
“So I called a friend of mine who lives in Craigieburn and said, ‘I’m going to give you some milk to make recipes.
“Then his neighbor came out and wanted some too, so we went around the neighborhood and gave people the milk.
Surinder said demand for home deliveries then started to spin “out of control”.
“I was still on the phone and my family was upset,” he said.
“But I loved it because we were getting so many orders.”
Today, the company delivers around 300 orders a day, six days a week, to a mix of residential and commercial customers and processes around 15,000 liters of milk every other day.
Payment per liter
As a new processor in an established dairy region, it took Kisaan some time to find farmers who would supply him with milk.
“There was a time when farmers were hesitant to supply us because they were bound by contracts with big processors,” Jaspreet said.
“Around the time we started, the ACCC ruled out processors locking up suppliers, which really helped us.
Jaspreet said the company buys its milk from three “really good local farmers”.
“They’ve been supporting us from the start,” he said.
Jaspreet said the price of milk was a major issue for them at first, but they decided to offer more than the bigger players.
“Large processors pay per kilo of fat protein content, but we pay per litre, which is about 21% more than large processors,” he said.
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The next product the company hopes to hit the shelves is buffalo milk.
“In three years, we’ve accomplished a lot and we want to make more products,” Jaspreet said.
“There is a market for buffalo milk here in Australia and we are already in contact with suppliers.”
Jaspreet said there were only three farms in Victoria supplying buffalo milk, but he was confident he could sell it.
“In India, most people drink buffalo milk because it is high in fat and protein,” he said.