The demonstration Fromagerie (cheese dairy) de Pringy-Gruyères fulfils a very important mission both in promoting a product, the Gruyère AOP, and the region of La Gruyère and the AOP production zone. It’s a shop window, an interface between the public and the members of the Gruyère AOP network.
On 24 June 1969, Switzerland’s first demonstration cheese dairy was inaugurated in Pringy, in the presence of Federal Councillor Mr Hans Schaffner, head of the Department of Economy Affairs, and numerous guests including the main dairy and agricultural organisations and companies from the sectors of Swiss production, transformation and trade.
Speech of Mr Schaffner: « This realistic and certainly effective display, presented in a world-renowned tourist location, will undoubtedly contribute to spreading still further Gruyere’s reputation and opening the market for other Swiss dairy products at home and abroad. »
A little history:
The cooperative company « Laiterie de Gruyères » (Gruyères Dairy) was created due to the demand of the circles concerned for the promotion of local produce, and of the Gruyère in particular, already at the beginning of the 60s, as well as to the proliferation of ideas kindled by the National Expo in 1964 in Lausanne. It was founded in 1967, under the chairmanship of Mr Henri de Gendre, National Councillor, by the Société de laiterie de Gruyères (Gruyères Dairy Society), Mr Jean Murith chairman of the milk producers of Gruyères; the Central Union of Milk Producers, Mr W. Sollberger director and Mr Jacques Pasquier secretary; L’Union suisse du commerce de fromage, (Swiss Cheese Union) Maître Peter Best ; the Fédération laitière de la zone de montagne (Dairy Federation of Mountain Zones); Mr Jules Chardonnens, Dir. de Grangeneuve and vice-chairman. It played a pioneering role under the impetus of Mr Jörg Grünig, head of advertising at the Swiss Cheese Trade Union, who put forward the idea of a demonstration cheese dairy in Gruyères.
The Federation of Agricultural Trade Unions of Canton Fribourg received a 2-year mandate to build the cheese dairy. Mr Jean Magnin took on the supervision of the construction and then ‘carried’ the fromagerie for a great many years.
The old dairy of Gruyères was in too dilapidated a state to satisfy the curiosity of tourists wishing to see how this uniquely famous cheese is made. At the time the castle welcomed 120,000 visitors a year, and the forecast of 1 out of 3 visitors to the cheese dairy, or 35 to 40,000, was exceeded by far. For the first time in Switzerland, over 100,000 people learned about the cheese-making in the course of this inaugural year.
Architect: Jean-Claude Lateltin
Civil engineer: Mr Jean Barras
Technical engineering: Claude Steiner, agricultural engineer in charge of research into the economics of cheese dairy operations at the Zurich Polytechnicum
Investment: 1.7 million
At the time, 35 producers delivered 1.5 million litres of milk per year. A rectangular vat (Danish system) of 4,100 l and a classical round vat of 1,400 litres made it possible to make 9 cheeses per day, and the cellars were planned to house 1,000 wheels of Gruyère moulds. The operation was entrusted to Cremo SA, and the first cheese-makers were Joseph Cotting, followed by Joseph Fragnière.
A 15-minute film shown in 4 languages with texts by Emile Gardaz, images by Marcel Imsand, the music of Henri Scolari and sound effects by Claude Blanc, the speaker Ignace Charrière and the actor Paul Pasquier made it possible to discover the different production stages of Gruyère at any time.
In 1972, the milk of Estavannens was processed in Pringy.
In 1977, following the takeover of Intyamon milk abandoned by Nestlé, extension and face lift of the dairy under the chairmanship of Jean Savary, increase in the volume used for production to 4 million litres of milk. The visitor’s gallery was then closed off by a window pane, addition of a lift for the disabled and of illustrations by Mr Bataillard in the staircase, as well as a refrigerated window in the shop.
In 1986, Paul Bourqui, director of Grangeneuve, suggested creating the Gruyère route, of which the « Sentier des Fromageries » (Cheese Dairy Path), inaugurated in 1994, remains and was entirely renovated in spring 2015.
From 1990, the ageing of the installations and inadequate tourist infrastructures led to a decline in the number of visitors, which had reached a peak of 312,000 visitors to a level of about 190,000 in 1997.
In 1997, the decision to locate the Interprofession du Gruyère in Pringy gave the place a still larger dimension. It was Georges Godel, chairman of the Société de Laiterie de Gruyères from 1996 to 2007, who presided over the construction of the current cheese dairy.
In May 2000, La Maison du Gruyère opened its doors. The renovated dairy was at the cutting edge of modernity. A new storage cellar was built. The sensory, interactive and entertaining exhibition contains a visitors’ gallery overlooking the cheese dairy and providing live viewings of the production 3 to 4 times a day. The ‘Marché gruérien’ (Gruyere Market) and the Restaurant, equipped and managed by Passaggio, as well as the multi-purpose room complete this new area exclusively dedicated to Gruyère AOP.
Architect: Architect office F. Dupont & B. Devaud
General contractor: Société coopérative “Laiterie de Gruyères”
Technical study of cheese-making: Nyffenegger Food Systems
Investment: Fr. 9,695,000.-
The follow-up of this reconstruction as well as the management of La Maison du Gruyère and La Société coopérative Laiterie de Gruyères until 2010 have been entrusted to the Fédération des sociétés fribourgeoises de laiterie (Federation of Fribourg dairy companies) under the direction of Clément Moret.
At the end of 2012, the Cooperative bought the commercial areas that had previously been managed independently by Passagio for 2 years then by Jean-François and Paola Perret for 10 years. The Marché gruérien is managed by the Cooperative. It has been reorganised, and gives prominence to cheese dairy products as well as local produce and crafts, while offering grocery products and souvenirs. The Restaurant of La Maison du Gruyère is managed by Christian and Eva Chassot-Saerens. It is labelled “Produits du terroir fribourgeois” (local Fribourg products) and offers Gruyère AOP dishes as well as regional specialities created with fresh and high-quality products.
Investment: Fr. 500,000.-
Today there are 30 to 35 producers, depending on the season, supplying more than 6 million litres of milk processed into Gruyère AOP, in other words 48 wheels per day produced in 4 vats of 4,800 litres. The cellars can accommodate 7,000 wheels. Production of Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP is also present on the site. Jacques and Nicolas Ecoffey have been the cheesemakers of La Maison du Gruyère since December 2004.
In 2019 La Maison du Gruyère welcomed over 670,000 guests including more than 180,000 visitors for the exhibition « Le Gruyère AOP, voyage au cœur des sens” (a journey to the heart of the senses).
A management board is the administrative organ of the Société coopérative Laiterie de Gruyères. It is composed of 9 members from among the milk producers and the circles concerned. Mr Philippe Bardet has been Chairman since 2007.
Operational management of the Cooperative is in the hands of Ms Fabienne Porchet. A staff of 33, equivalent to 13 full-time posts, are employed at the reception, in the Marché Gruérien, in administration, at the milk acceptance point in the pouring area, and at the janitor’s post.
The future is taking shape, and an architecture competition was launched in June 2017. The winner was announced at the beginning of 2018 : project “Mujyà” by architects’ office Frundgallina SA of Neuchâtel. In 2019, the agencies Wapico and Ciné 3D, respectively René Walker and the Brothers Frédéric and Samuel Guillaume, were chosen for the museography.
Since September 2018 a project manager, Philippe Voillat, has been guiding the destiny of the future Maison du Gruyère.