Cheesemongers want more British blues and softs to plug Brexit gap
Gaps in the market for new British cheeses are growing as online sales boom and Brexit requirements make Continental cheeses harder to import.
While COVID initially presented serious challenges to British artisan cheesemakers, sales have bounced back and are growing rapidly with big opportunities for new and innovative products, according to cheesemongers.
Better packaging and branding, smaller products and new soft and blue cheeses were all identified as gaps in the market.
“We’re looking for more British lactic goat and sheep’s milk cheeses in different shapes and sizes,” said Rory Mellis, director at IJ Mellis in Scotland. “That’s only going to continue because new paperwork requirements for imported cheeses are likely to mean price increases and delays, especially for small, soft cheeses.”
He added that packaging was also a more important consideration to protect cheeses during delivery.
“Online sales are such a big part of what we do now that cheesemakers need to work with us on that, supplying individual cheeses in wooden cases or boxes.”
At Paxton and Whitfield, buyer Dan Bliss echoed these comments.
“There’s definitely more room for British goat and sheep’s cheeses in different styles, shapes, sizes and age profiles,” she said. “I’d also like to see more innovation in blues beyond crumbly and Gorgonzola-style cheeses. Rogue River Blue and Cabrales are good examples of [foreign] blues that are really different.”
Different sizes are also an easy way for cheesemakers to innovate, she added. “If you look at Baron Bigod, it comes in 3kg wheels for large farm shops, 1kg wheels, which are great for foodservice, and 200g cheeses for delis and hampers.”
Ruth Raskin, care & quality manager at The Fine Cheese Co., also highlighted British blues as an area for evolution.
“It would be nice to see some really spicy, piquant blues, as well as more oozy, gooey cheeses,” she said. “There’s also a burgeoning market for retail-ready cheeses, but better label design and good quality paper are essential.”
Paxtons’ Dan Bliss added that the name of a cheese is also vital. She said: “A lot of British cheeses are named after a saint or for some reason start with the letter ‘B’. Choosing a name that stands out and is easy to remember can make a big difference.”