In Belmonte Mezzagno, a small municipality in the province of Palermo, there is a company that has had the strength and skill to take one of Sicily’s finest specialties beyond any imaginable border. We are talking about SIFOR, an acronym that stands for Formaggi Siciliani, that is Sicilian Cheeses, founded in 1989 by the brothers Pietro and Giovanni Pastoia, true enthusiasts and experts in the production and sale of sheep’s milk cheeses.
Their adventure started long ago, more precisely in the 1950s when the owners’ grandfather began his career as a cheese merchant. At that time, their main suppliers were farmers from whom they purchased tuma, primosale, and ricotta cheeses to sell them in the nearby city of Palermo.
Giovanni and Pietro started working in the family business at a very young age. In the 1980s, they began working in the storeroom after school. Their experience grew over the years, refining production techniques, eventually leading them to establish a company.
Today, after more than thirty years, SIFOR has literally conquered the international market. As much as 62% of their revenues comes from abroad. Their cheeses are exported to about 25 different countries, including Germany, which represents their main market, as well as Belgium, France, Poland, Switzerland, and beyond.
There are also destinations much farther away, such as the United States, Australia, Canada, Venezuela, and Egypt.
The main headquarters is still the historic one in Belmonte, but over time they have opened two storage facilities in the province of Parma. The first one is almost 13,000 square feet and includes office space, while the second one is almost 5,400 square feet and is dedicated to storing aged cheeses.
The turning point for SIFOR came in 2003, following their participation in the Anuga international trade fair in Cologne, Germany. It was a precious opportunity where the two businessmen received great feedback, significantly increasing the demand for their products and consequently the company’s revenues.
SIFOR offers an extensive range of products, with around 100 different types of cheese.
They range from fresh cheeses with a delicate flavor and a short aging period of 15-20 days to more mature ones aged for 90 days, 7 months, and up to Gran Riserva cheeses, aged for 15 months.
DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) cheeses are also part of their selection, including Sicilian pecorino, Ragusano, Nebrodi provola, and Madonie provola cheeses. The latter holds a special meaning for Pietro, as it is not only a Slow Food Presidium but also one of the products he started working with when he was only 15 years old.
Among their specialties, the items that stand out are the pecorino cheeses, flavored in various ways. The ones with zibibbo grapes and truffles are truly inimitable.
Their flagship cheese is Montanaro, a sheep’s milk cheese made in the Sicani Mountains. It undergoes a lengthy aging process without the use of modern temperature control systems. It matures slowly and is only sold after a minimum period of 8 months.
Today, SIFOR is a continuously expanding company that collaborates with select group of businesses, creating a synergy that allows them to use only the highest quality raw materials.
Giovanni and Pietro are proud of their achievements. When asked about their hopes for the future, they express concern for dairy farmers. They wish for greater attention to be given to dairy farmers, who are the true driving force behind the entire supply chain.
SIFOR is a story that is passed down from generation to generation, one of those that highlights the strength of the true “Made in Sicily” label, characterized by tradition, passion, and quality.