Posted: 15/04/2020

Mary Quicke: food lovers must save artisan cheese as lockdown hits sales


In a bid to convince consumers and retailers to back artisan cheese during the COVID-19 lockdown, cheesemaker Mary Quicke has made an impassioned plea in an open letter to the nation’s food lovers.

Her appeal comes as Quicke’s, Devon-based producers of clothbound cheddars and other cheeses, has had to halt production with sales down by more than 50%, while many other small makers are also suffering.

“With supermarket shelves emptying as fast as they can be stacked, it looks to people who love food that all food producers must be doing well. 

“For those speciality, artisan producers like us who sell little or nothing to supermarkets, the current situation is devastating,” said Quicke, pictured, in her open letter.


Shepherds Purse Cheeses offers lifeline to struggling milk supplier

Speaking to FFD, she added that among the glut of good news stories there is a backdrop of worrying reductions in demand for artisan food products. “There’s all this positivity out there that it’s going to make everyone think that everything is okay, but it’s not.”

“It’s not telling the whole truth; it’s living in la-la land.”

Quicke said she wrote her missive to appeal to consumers and retailers to get cheese back into their lives. “Just because we can’t see people, doesn’t mean that we can’t have all that joy and pleasure and connection that food provides.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she said, “our farm shop is having a December in April, which is incredible, but it’s not bringing in the volume of sales of fine artisan produce.

Quickes cheddar truckles
Quicke’s cheddar truckles

“We are in danger of losing 30 or more years of hard work making the British artisan food community what it is.”

Quicke closed her letter with a final plea to food lovers: “Give a gift of great food to the loved ones you can’t see face to face. Treat yourself and your family to a party night at home, with a rich British cheeseboard.

“Be inspired by your connection to food and farming, the power you have, and the difference you make in the world.”


Mary Quicke’s open letter

“Dear friends in food
We’ve been overwhelmed by the drive from all sides to get our cheese to you. I’d like to thank everyone for being committed to us and our cheese.
With supermarket shelves emptying as fast as they can be stacked, it looks to people who love food that all food producers must be doing well. For those speciality, artisan producers like us who sell little or nothing to supermarkets, the current situation is devastating. Many of the restaurants around the world that champion our products are closed. Many deli counters are closed. Our champions are furloughed or laid off. The distributors who drive sales through the food web are struggling. In the urgency to feed the one third of the world’s population that are currently locked down, the small and the artisan is getting left out. We risk losing the whole of the complex ecology of our artisan food system: just in cheese, that’s the amazing diversity of artisan cheesemakers that has developed over the last thirty years.
Many restaurants and small food producers are moving online. Thank you for that, get your piece of joy through the post. It doesn’t replace the volumes that we’ve lost elsewhere. Many businesses are reporting sales of half to one tenth from before the crisis. 
What to do? Please, find the great initiatives getting good food online. Cook up great dishes and have an online dinner party. Give a gift of great food to the loved ones you can’t see face to face. Treat yourself and your family to a party night at home, with a rich British cheeseboard. Get to know the cheese mongers, food producers, butchers and chefs reaching out online.  
When this is all over, rejoice and get back out to the delis, food service and cheesemongers that support us. Together we can have our delicate food web survive to serve you and our world when this is all done. 
Be inspired by your connection to food and farming, the power you have, and the difference you make in the world. 
Mary Quicke”

Return to the top