Innes Cheese to close permanently after COVID scuppers expansion
Joe Bennett, owner of Innes Cheese in Staffordshire, said he felt “positive” but with “massive sadness”, after deciding to stop production because of the coronavirus crisis.
Best known for unpasteurised goats’ cheeses Innes Brick and Log, Bennett and his partner Aimee Lawn had planned to borrow heavily to expand the business when the coronavirus struck and sales collapsed.
Although orders quickly recovered, the experience prompted the couple, who are expecting their second child, to rethink and ultimately decide to stop cheesemaking altogether.
“It’s made us re-evaluate,” he told FFD. “I’d be worried about whether we could service that loan if there was a double dip with the virus. It highlighted the fragility of what we do.”
Goats’ cheese has been made at Highfields Farm for 33 years, originally by Bennett’s mother Stella, who retired 18 months ago. Bennett and Lawn have since introduced significant changes, launching an aged cheese called Highfields, refurbishing the dairy and introducing new branding.
The couple have found a new home for the farm’s flock of 350 goats – with Cumbria-based cheesemaker Martin Gott – but Bennett said they had not decided what they would do next.
“We’re excited for the future and feeling positive, although there is also a massive sadness,” said Bennett. “We got to a point where we felt we were making the best cheese we could, so it’s a good time to bow out.”