What is your first thought about Icelandic snacks? How many do you know and which is your favourite? Allow us to show you one.
Venture from sandwiches
‘It all happened quite naturally’, said Guðmundur Páll, one of the co-founders of Lava Cheese. The business started from a chat over sandwiches and beers; the obsession of the co-founders about the cheese crusts on the side of cheese sandwiches led to their idea of developing a gourmet snack which contains solely baked cheese and spices. The name ‘lava cheese’ is derived from the shape of the pieces which resemble the ‘rough shape of the Icelandic lava fields’.
Lava Cheese launched its first product ‘lava cheese with chili’ last year, next came the ‘lava cheese with liquorice root’. Take a bite of ‘lava cheese with chili’, and your whole mouth would be immersed in the cheese aroma. The taste is not too barnyardy, rather, quite sharp. The fulfilling flavour, crunchy texture, together with the kicks from the added spices, make ‘lava cheese’ a perfect snack to go with a good bottle of wine on a sunny afternoon (Yes, sunny afternoons do exist in Iceland). if you are a cheese person, this is definitely worth trying out while traveling in Iceland.
Being made from pure cheddar cheese, ‘lava cheese’ does not contain any carbohydrates. Further, it is rich in proteins, therefore it has gained quite some popularity among the fitness community and some others who care about their nutrition intakes.
Men behind Lava Cheese
Guðmundur Páll Líndal and Jósep Birgir Þórhallsson are the men behind this startup. The two made each other acquainted from junior high school. Later Guðmundur Páll went to law school and Jósep was studying engineering. After trying out careers such as banking, fly attendants, lawyers, they did not found themselves exactly cut out for 'regular hours' and jobs that are principally ‘reactive’ to the outer environment.
Guðmundur Páll and Jósep go way back. They had been best friends for 15 years before starting Lava Cheese. After developing the prototype, however, did the real challenges come. For this new concept of a snack to be received by customers, the two used to go to one store after another in Iceland, introducing their products and offering samples in order for business developments. In December, 2016, finally, lava cheese was officially launched at the Artisan Food Fayre in Harpa, the products were sold out and the business kicked off.
When asked how difficult it was at the beginning, Jósep joked that he still had nightmares about chopping up cheese hours a day to meet the order requests. Those days may have passed, but the process of 'making something out of nothing', the ever-changing environment, the constant need of new knowledge and skills have driven the two into continuing this enterprise
Iceland as a country for entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurships can be challenging, and entrepreneurships in Iceland have its own advantages as well as difficulties. Jósep is quite satisfied with the entrepreneurial environments in Iceland, where there are plenty of sources of fundings and Guðmundur Páll added that the education in Iceland encourage critical thinking. However, the small domestic market, logistical costs, labour prices all contribute to the challenges of entrepreneurships in Iceland.
Next steps for Lava Cheese
With two previous products gaining vast popularity in Iceland, Lava Cheese is now seeking development in both the product variety and market expansion. A third flavour is to launch in a few weeks’ time. Meanwhile, there are plans of reaching more than just Icelanders; one of the next market could be Sweden.
Sitting down and chatting with Guðmundur Páll and Jósep was an inspirational and relaxing experience. We believed their product to be a nice choice of snack, souvenir or gift. If you would like to try out ‘lava cheese’ yourself or purchase some for your family and friends, here is a list of its retail locations in Iceland.