A brief history - Coon Cheese
COON Cheese is made in Australia. The brand name recognises the work of an American, Edward William Coon, who patented a unique ripening process that was used to manufacture the original COON cheese.
The manufacturing of COON Cheese in Australia commenced in November 1935 and continued through to December 1942, when production ceased because of the war. It recommenced in June 1948 at Allansford in the Western District of Victoria, and at Quinalow on the Darling Downs in Queensland. At that time, it was made in traditional red waxed cloth wrapped 7 lb 'Rounds'. 'Red Coon', as it was known, became popular for its mature flavour and texture.
In the early 50's a system of rectangular,plastic wrapped COON was introduced, and later in 1965 it was cut and wrapped in 8 oz (250g) packs.
A brief history - Continued
Dairy Farmers acquired the KRAFT natural cheddar business in December 1997 which included the COON brand. The COON brand was then acquired by National Foods when it purchased Dairy Farmers in November 2008. In June 2015 Warrnambool Cheese and Butter Factory acquired the business on behalf of their parent company Saputo.
The production of COON now takes place along the Great Ocean Road, Allansford. The COON product range includes Tasty, Light n' Tasty, Extra Tasty and Swiss and are available in blocks, slices and shredded.
The COON story
Back in the 1930s most of the cheese on the market in Australia was pretty bland. Poor manufacturing and distribution practices made the results from maturing cheese unreliable and people were asking for something tastier.
Fred Walker heard the call.
Fred was a Melbourne cheese maker. The Fred Walker Co had been making Red Feather brand processed cheese for years. It was a great product, packed in sterile containers with a good shelf life, but Fred wanted to give his customers a tasty alternative. Something with a bit of a zing to it.
So he wrote to Edward William Coon in Philadelphia. He'd heard the man was pioneering the making of great tasting cheese. Edward Coon had developed a way to make fuller flavoured cheddar
"Ed Coon I presume?"
Fred steamed off to the US in the late 1920's to meet Edward Coon to learn more about his ripening process. He was impressed with Edward Coon's curing process, which achieved a tangy flavour and allowed cheese to be produced safely and reliably every time.
While Edward Coon may have developed the more efficient process, there was a Coon Cheese Factory operating near New York way back in 1870. So it's not clear who the first person was to make sharp tasting natural cheddar under the Coon family name, but it's safe to say the good Edward COON revolutionised the art.
There is no record of Edward Coon being an academic. It seems he gained the honorary title of doctor for his legendary skill at curing cheese rather than people!
"Fred Walkers return to Australia"
Returning to Australia, Fred formed the Kraft Walker Company with his new American partners, including JL Kraft, the founder of Kraft in the US, about this time and started making "Red COON" cheddar by the end of 1933.
Wrapped in red wax, the tasty new brand was a hit with Australian tastebuds. Australians loved the taste, eating it in sandwiches, melting it on toast and no doubt washing a fair bit down with beer and bikkies.
COON goes to war
The only thing that slowed down domestic consumption was the start of World War Two. A patriotic company, production of Red COON cheese stopped in 1942 as the whole factory swung into the production of 12 oz cans of processed cheese to feed the troops.
They started making good old Red COON again after the war. However, the growth of supermarkets and refrigerated dairy cases and the use of pre-cut, pre-packed retail blocks of cheese in the 1950s made the red-waxed rounds a bit obsolete. So both the wax and the word "Red" got the chop and the cheese we grew up on became known simply as COON.
The COON story continues
These days you can enjoy COON in more ways, forms and types of Cheese than Dr COON or Fred Walker ever dreamed of, but we're sure they would approve.