It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a very challenging year. For many NZ cheesemakers the pandemic and the associated restrictions meant quickly adapting and finding new markets as some specialty retail food stores, farmers’ markets, cafes and restaurants closed during lockdown.

However, there is a silver lining. While New Zealanders hunkered down staying safe, they used their free time to explore and support New Zealand made produce, including cheese, which is enjoying record sales.

According to Nielsen Scantrack, a record of supermarket sales for the year to 9 August 2020 – total value for all cheese sales is up by 12.2% for the 12 months. Among these numbers is a strong increase for speciality cheese – up in value by 9.5%. Always a favourite with families, blocks of cheese are up 14.5% in value and grated cheese sales were up a whopping 25.1%.

New Zealand Speciality Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) Chair, Neil Willman welcomed the sales numbers, saying New Zealand cheesemakers were delighted with the support they were receiving from Kiwis who were trying to buy local where they could. “It’s uplifting to see the sales are strong across the board from traditional blocks of Cheddar and Edam, to grated cheese and through to speciality cheeses like flavoured cheese, fresh cheese, soft rind cheese and goats’ cheese.”

NEW CHEESELOVERS NZ WEBSITE 

To share stories of New Zealand’s cheesemakers, NZSCA is pleased to launch its new website www.cheeseloversnz.co.nz on Thursday 1 October – it will become an information hub for everyone’s favourite local cheese companies.

It features a directory of New Zealand cheesemakers and a link to information about their retail stores, as well as offering tips on storing and serving cheese. Additionally – to meet the growing interest in cooking with cheese www.cheeseloversnz.co.nz has recipes for cooking with NZ cheese, including some new twists on old favourites created especially for NZ Cheese month by Kathy Paterson.

Cheeseloversnz.co.nz also includes a record of winners of the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards from its inception in 2004 until the present. The website will be regularly updated. 

SEARCHING FOR NZ’S FAVOURITE CHEESE COMPANY

The NZSCA is working with Barker’s of Geraldine to encourage cheese lovers to vote for their favourite NZ Cheese Company and the company with the most votes at the end of NZ Cheese Month will be named Barker’s NZ Cheese Month Favourite Cheese Company.

Voting will be promoted on www.cheeseloversnz.co.nz and also via CheeseloversNZ Facebook and Barker’s of Geraldine social media.

Barker’s is the perfect partner for the NZ Cheese Month Favourite Cheese Company as their NZ-made Fruit for Cheese is a wonderful addition for NZ cheese platters. Its four delicious fruit pastes pair perfectly with NZ cheese.

NEW ZEALAND’S CHEESE TRENDS

NZSCA asked a couple of people with expert experience selling New Zealand cheese what the hot trends in NZ cheese are. Here are their insights: 

Countdown Cheese Category Manager Philip Greenslade said the growth in specialty cheese for cooking continues and has been heightened by Covid with people taking more time to cook and eat at home.

“Kiwis are getting more creative and eating a wider variety of cheeses, including it in their weekly shop. Sales of entertaining cheese continue to be led by Camembert and Brie. However, people are increasingly trying new types of cheese which is reflected with strong growth in Havarti and Gouda. Halloumi in particular is trendy with Feta and Mozzarella also showing strong growth. Additionally, more home cooking has created strong sales of large blocks, shredded and grated cheese.”

C’est Cheese Artisan Cheese & Deli owner and winner of the 2019 Favourite NZ Cheese Shopping Experience, Paul Broughton said they have noticed a definite change in the way their customers choose cheese.

“The biggest change is the demand for locally made product. As people spend more time travelling around their country they’re beginning to appreciate and connect with New Zealand’s vibrant community of artisan cheesemakers. This is resulting in ongoing purchasing of locally made cheeses as well as a heightened understanding of the many different types of cheese made here.

We’re seeing many of our customers trying styles of cheese that they previously might not have considered – they’re more adventurous in their selections. Including cheese in cooking is also on the increase, it’s not uncommon to have people come into our Featherstone, Wairarapa shop clutching a recipe that requires a specialist cheese as a key ingredient. Pleasingly, most if not all such cheeses can invariably be sourced from our own expert NZ cheesemakers.”

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