Turrialba cheese is an emblematic product of Costa Rica and has been the subject of a legal conflict between the Dos Pinos Milk Producers’ Cooperative and the cheese producers’ associations of the Turrialba region regarding the denomination of origin.

In this article, we will focus on the history of Turrialba cheese and its appellation of origin.


Turrialba cheese is a soft cheese with a mild flavor that is produced in the region of Turrialba, in the province of Cartago, Costa Rica. This region is known for its fresh and humid climate. Therefore, it is ideal for the production of high quality milk for cheese making. The cheese-making tradition in the region dates back to the 19th century, and has been maintained to the present day.

turrialba cheese

They date back to the 19th century, when Swiss settlers arrived in the Turrialba region and began to produce cheese on a small scale. Over time, Turrialba cheese became an emblematic product of the area, and its fame spread throughout the country.

Los antecedentes históricos 

During the 1930s, it began to be marketed in the city of San José, the capital of Costa Rica. It soon became a popular product throughout the country. Later, in 1940, the Turrialba Cheese Producers Association was founded, which looked to improve the quality and commercialization of this regional product.

The Association of Cheese Producers of Santa Cruz and Santa Teresita de Turrialba obtained the designation of origin in 1996 from the National Institute for Innovation and Transfer of Agricultural Technology (INTA). As a result, the quality and authenticity of the cheese produced in the region was recognized.

Turrialba cheese: conflict and denomination

During 2004, the Dos Pinos Milk Producers’ Cooperative attempted to register the trademark “Turrialba” to market its own cheese. As a result, it led to a conflict with local cheese producers’ associations.

Dos Pinos claimed that it had been responsible for putting the product on the table of Costa Ricans, and presented market studies to support its claim. However, the Administrative Registry Court rejected its appeal in 2013. Thus, it confirmed the cheese’s denomination of origin as a seal of quality. This refers exclusively to the cheese produced in the Turrialba region, and not to other similar cheeses.

Dos Pinos Foul Defense

The company Dos Pinos filed an appeal in 2011 against a resolution granting the Designation of Origin.

Dos Pinos stated that it had studied the market and had discovered that the Turrialba cheese most consumed by Costa Ricans was the one they produced. Implying that, therefore, it was their brand that had put that cheese on the table of Costa Ricans.

However, the Administrative Registry Court rejected Dos Pinos’ defense, arguing that the cheese had historical antecedents dating back to the 19th century, and that therefore, the authentic and genuine cheese is the one from Turrialba.

The Court noted that the Dos Pinos company had promoted its cheese as one that resembled the cheese produced in Turrialba, but that in reality it was only a “type” of that cheese.

In August 2013, Dos Pinos sued the State and the associations that had promoted the Designation of Origin of Turrialba cheese. The company argued that the Denomination of Origin restricted competition and was unfair because they had been the ones to popularize the cheese throughout the country.

The judicial process was long and complex, but finally, the Administrative Court of Costa Rica ruled in favor of the Designation of Origin of Turrialba cheese. In other words, 10 years later, the Court rejects Dos Pinos’ lawsuit against the denomination of origin “Queso Turrialba”.

According to the court, the Appellation of Origin was necessary to protect the quality and authenticity of the cheese. Furthermore, it did not restrict competition, but promoted product differentiation.


Costa Rican Turrialba cheese is an emblematic dairy product of Costa Rica. It has a Denomination of Origin, which means that it is produced exclusively in a defined geographical region. This means that its quality and characteristics are the result of natural and human factors associated with that place. Although the process to obtain the Denomination of Origin was controversial, it finally succeeded in protecting the authenticity and quality as a distinctive product.

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