Posted: 17/06/2019

Roving producer launches ‘cheese at events’ campaign

Francis Gimblett, who recently visited 100 British cheesemakers in 100 days, is the driving force behind the campaign

The event catering sector is a huge and potentially lucrative market for British artisan cheese, according to the organiser of a new campaign to improve cheeseboards at corporate functions, conferences and dinners.

The Campaign for British Cheese at Events was launched last month at Vintners Hall by Francis Gimblett, a Hampshire-based cheesemaker who runs a corporate tasting events business and recently visited 100 British cheesemakers in 100 days as part of research for a new cheese guide. He is urging events caterers to do more to support British artisan cheesemakers and improve the quality of their cheeseboards.

“We have always made a point of serving British cheeses at our tasting events, but I see little evidence of them on venue cheeseboards, and when I do it is often mass-produced,” said Gimblett, who will donate his time to help events organisers, caterers and venues select great British cheeses. “This is the equivalent of serving bag-in-box supermarket wine at an important conference or networking event.” 

There are around 6,500 players in the £1.4bn events catering sector, with corporate functions accounting for around half of all events, according to researcher IBIS World. There are also opportunities for delis and farm shops to profit, said Gimblett. 

“There is 100% a gap in the market for smaller businesses, who naturally have a focus on cheese quality and provenance,” 

At Kenilworth-based Farmers Fayre, owner Nicola Reece said that catering for functions, conferences and private parties was an important part of her business. “We’re known for our cheese counter and we get clients who choose us because of that,” she said. “We’re investing in our building so we can host dinners here with space to seat 120 people.”

The UK’s oldest events catering company Searcys, which hosts events at 25 landmark venues, was recognised as a Champion of British Cheese at the campaign’s launch event. The company only serves British artisan cheese, sourced within 48 miles of each venue, including Oxford Blue, Ticklemore and Doddington. 

“When we bid for customers we will talk about ways we can add value, and cheese is part of that,” said MD Matt Thomas. “Really good cheeses, served at the right temperature with the right accompaniments is so desperately simple, I’m confused as to why more people aren’t optimising it.”

This story appeared in the June issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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