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Tuxford & Tebbutt’s future in the balance as Stilton sales fall

Posted: 1 March 2024

By Patrick McGuigan

The future of one of Britain’s oldest Stilton makers is at risk as sales of the iconic blue continue to crumble.

Arla Foods has launched a strategic review of Tuxford & Tebbutt and is looking at selling the business, which has made Stilton in Melton Mowbray since 1780 and employs 60 people. It said the review would conclude in April and was necessary due to falling sales. 

Tuxford & Tebbutt is one of just six dairies that still make Stilton. The historic cheese, which is protected by a PDO, has struggled in recent years as milder blues have become more popular and sales were hit badly during Covid. 

The 150-year-old Stilton maker Webster’s Dairy in Leicestershire was forced to close in 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.

According to farming body AHDB, quoting research from NIQ Homescan Panel, volumes of Stilton and British blues fell by 3.4% in the year to 27th January 2024, while 122,000 fewer households purchased the cheese during the same time. This was partly explained by shoppers being put off by big price increases due to inflation. Prices went up 17.4% in the period, said the AHDB, equating to an extra £1.89 per kg, on average.

“While food price inflation is slowing on the highs seen last year, shoppers are still very aware of their budgets,” said AHDB analyst Charlotte Forkes-Rees. “We are seeing consumers changing their shopping habits to mitigate rising costs, with purchasing less, trading down tiers, switching more expensive cheeses for cheaper ones and switching retailers all being utilised as a means of saving money.”

This article first appeared in the March 2024 edition of Fine Food Digest .