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British Cheese Board
British Cheese Board
A total of 32 top cheese makers have joined together to form the British Cheese Board. Membership covers Great Britain and Northern Ireland and represents manufacturers of large scale cheddar to small speciality cheese producers. The aim of the board is simple - it wants anyone who buys or eats cheese in this country to think British. It will promote the wealth of British cheeses with over 400 currently available and encourage consumers to opt for the many regional cheeses available when they have a desire for something different.
Over the past ten years, total UK cheese sales have continued to grow and retail sales of cheese stand at approximately £1.5 billion per year. However, some consumers are confused believing that there is a limited choice of British cheeses available and that all cheeses look and taste the same. The board will aim to remind those that an immense range of British cheeses is available from British cheesemakers.
A total of 98 per cent of households in the UK currently buy cheese at least once a year and 81 per cent buy cheese at least once every four weeks. Cheese appears in 32 per cent of lunchboxes and sandwiches while cheese on toast and other bread uses account for over 60 per cent of all meal occasions featuring cheese. Cheddar cheese is the most popular accounting for 57 per cent of the volume of cheese purchased. Mature cheddar cheese purchases are increasing at 2 per cent per year and extra mature cheddar enjoyed a dramatic growth of 15 per cent during 1999. In addition to this move from mild to mature cheddar, consumers are moving towards premium brands and experimenting with speciality cheeses such as those with added fruit or herbs, organic and creamy bries. Purchases of different types of cheese vary across the country. More Lancashire, Wensleydale and Cheshire are bought in the north west than in other parts of the country. Red cheddar is a favourite among the Scots and southern shoppers eat more cheese and are more prepared to experiment with different varieties.
A total of 81 per cent of cheese is bought pre-packed compared with only 19 per cent from the delicatessen counter. Everyday blocks of cheddar or regional cheese are bought as a staple item with cheese snacks bought by parents for children and grated, spreadable or pre-sliced cheeses for convenience for everyday usage.
Despite the recent growth of sterling, British cheese has continued to gain popularity in a number of European markets. Singletons, a member of the British Cheese Board, export £1.2 million of speciality cheeses into Europe each year with a particular focus on countries in northern Europe such as Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. They have found that in-store tasting dramatically improved sales. Logistically, they find it easier to deliver cheeses to Paris than to Aberdeen. Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board, says that it is the challenge to extend consumers' repertoire both within and beyond cheddar to meet a greater variety of consumption occasions. Consumers' knowledge of wine has improved dramatically over the last decade and cheese retailers can learn from this. They can describe the taste, texture and uses of each cheese by developing a simple "cheese language". Consumers also need to be encouraged to enjoy their cheese even more by letting it come to room temperature before eating it as they would allow a good red wine to reach room temperature before drinking it.
The board also has suggestions for caterers. It suggests that different cheeses should be described as desserts often are, tantalising the taste buds. It suggests customers should be encouraged to eat cheese before the dessert so that wine from the main course can complement the cheese. Alternatively half bottles of wines especially suitable to drink with cheese may be offered. Waiting staff must be fully conversant with the cheeses on offer so they can recommend them to customers. Cheese on marble boards tends to sweat. To avoid this, place cheese on wicker mats that have been previously sterilised or on clean wooden boards. To serve with cheese choose biscuits which are not salty or try local bread specialities for a change. Finally, caterers are recommended not to overprice their cheeseboards.
For further information on British cheeses, access the British Cheese Board's Web site at http://www.BritishCheese.com or write to The British Cheese Board, 7th Floor, Broad Quay House, Bristol BS1 4DJ.