In the space of about two years, Adam Thompson has gone from peddling his goat cheese products mostly to farmers markets to seeing them on the shelves of 27 H-E-B stores in Texas, including locations in Brownsville, Harlingen, Port Isabel and the McAllen-Pharr-Edinburg metro area.
H-E-B recently picked up two products from Thompson Dairy Farms (formerly South Texas Cheese Factory): a “classic” aged goat feta and a marinated version, both found in the stores’ specialty cheese departments. Thompson said that as far as he knows it’s the only goat cheese available at H-E-B made from raw milk, unpasteurized, with no preservatives.
“It’s milk and culture and rennet and salt,” he said.
Thompson said he’d always planned to break into retail with his dairy, located in Bayview, and last year entered H-E-B’s “Primo Picks Quest for Texas Best” contest, which solicits entries of Texas-made products from across the state. Grand prize winners get the opportunity to pitch their products to H-E-B executives and, if they’re lucky, actually get shelf space.
Thompson Dairy Farms made it into the top 25 among 400 entries in the 2015 competition and was invited to Houston to compete in the finals. The company didn’t win, though H-E-B was still interested in the products. A company executive told Thompson as much before he could leave the building, Thompson said.
“They still wanted to work with us,” he said. “The vice president of deli said they still want to get something going, still wanted to make a deal.”
A month later, Thompson went to San Antonio to meet with the buyers and hammer out an agreement, he said.
“It’s been a year-long process getting in there, but we finally got ourselves on the shelves now,” Thompson said. “It’s been a journey. We’ve been working on this deal since last December.”