Posted: 05/08/2022

Cheesemongers up the innovation in the face of price increases

Cutting costs, changing suppliers and offering deals are among the tactics being deployed by UK cheesemongers as they battle huge increases in the price of artisan cheese.

Wholesale cheese prices have increase by 20-30% since Christmas, according to retailers, as milk, energy and fuel costs soar.

The farm-gate price for milk was close to 50p a litre at the beginning of August, up from 29p a year ago, due to the rocketing cost of fuel, fertiliser and feed with cheesemakers and wholesalers forced to pass on the increases. While retailers have also increased their prices, they are also tempering the impact in other ways.

Gemma Williams at The Little Cheesemonger in Wales has taken drastic action to cut costs, including closing her first shop in Rhuddlan. “Customers just aren’t driving to rural shops like they used to, for obvious reasons,” she said.

She has also mothballed her maturing room to conserve energy and on very hot days even switches off the serve-over counter in her remaining Prestatyn store for the same reason, transferring cheeses to another display fridge, and using the counter for ambient display.

“On closing, I use extra insulation on my multi-deck fridge to hold the temperature more efficiently over night,” she said.

At Cheese Etc in Pangbourne, Berkshire, co-owner Jen Grimstone-Jones is shopping around to get the best price on cheese, buying direct from cheesemakers if possible.

“Where I have to buy through a wholesaler I try to buy from those based in the area where the cheeses are made. They tend to be able to offer their local cheeses at the best prices.”

Paxton & Whitfield has also introduced measures to support customers, with free delivery for online purchases over £30, plus a £30 ‘ripe and ready’ box that is lower in price than the standard retail price. It will also introduce a more accessibly priced cheese subscription for Christmas 2022 at £85 for three months and is planning to list new cheeses at more accessible prices.

At George & Joseph in Leeds, owner Stephen Fleming has launched a new deal – three 100g pieces of cheese and a bottle of wine for £20.

“We’ve noticed that average spend is down, but customer numbers are the same, so ideas like this help to give sales a lift,” he said.

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