Blessed are the cheesemakers

Changing consumer habits are benefitting artisan producers, particularly Britain’s cheesemakers.

“The after-effects of Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic have seen demand for provenance, quality and sustainability soar,” explains Kirstie Jones, marketing manager at South Caernarfon Creamery in Wales, and with the ‘Buy British’ movement gaining momentum, specialist cheesemakers and retailers are keen to spread the message about handcrafted British cheeses.

Caroline Bell of Yorkshire-based artisan cheesemakers Shepherds Purse says there is no doubt that more people have discovered British cheeses due to the pandemic. But, she adds, the “quality and diversity are what is bringing people back for more. New fans have discovered cheeses they love, and hopefully they can see the passion and sheer talent that exists amongst Britain’s cheesemakers and retailers. The pandemic has meant that many people have been able to take more time to shop, and that lends itself to a more considered experience and a willingness to explore.”

So, what sets fine British cheeses apart from, say, their European counterparts?

“In a word, people, “says Paul Heasman, Purchasing Co-ordinator at Rowcliffe, one of the UK’s leading distributors of quality cheese and fine foods. “The past 30 years or so has seen a resurgence of British artisan cheeses, forced in part by the demise of decent milk returns and higher exposure of Continental offerings. British farmers learned that the diverse terroir of the UK aligned to creative mixing of different breeds provides great conditions for making amazing cheeses; today’s shopper is spoilt for choice with artisan cheeses that far exceed the quality of the EU’s.

"Tim Rowcliffe (son of the company’s founder) once told me that nice people make nice cheese; he is right, and fortunately the UK cheese industry is abundant with these people whose passion and skill are evident in the superior quality artisanal cheeses produced. When championing our cheeses, we must do more to celebrate those that make it all possible.”

Meet some of our 'Big Cheeses'