Say Cheese

August 11 2010

The other week I attended the New York Fancy Food Show at the Javits Centre and was delighted to see the refined emphasis placed on branding by the food industry. After much delicious grazing, I worked my way over to the British Pavilion and discovered Ford Farm, a small English farm making artisanal English cheese, who have recently won the Queen’s Award for International Enterprise, as well as many other awards. That's "The Queen," as in Queen Elizabeth ll. Despite their size, one of their cheeses, Coastal, is currently the largest English Cheddar brand in the US. At a time when other food manufacturers are concerned about the future and staying alive, the establishment of a clearly defined, prestige brand has set Ford Farm apart from its competitors, some of which are large businesses with much greater resources.

The business was formed when two cheese farmers, each facing closure because Margaret Thatcher restructured their industry, put their businesses together. Luckily each had what the other did not, one having the products and customers and the other having the production facility and cows. Interestingly enough, now they sell one third of their production to the US and have increased sales, staff and production. Good for them, good for Britain. Hence the visit with Her Royal Highness.

How did they do this? Through developing and using the power of branding. Rather than make private label products for large retailers, Ford Farm consistently reinforces their brand name and quality in the US market. The brand is not just the cheese -- they understand the product is comprised of the cheese itself, on-time delivery, US customer support and personal visits by the English principals, technical support and extensive customer service. So they are communicating and supporting both the personal and heritage aspects of their brand in everything that they do.

By the way, the products are very tasty! I especially loved their Coastal Cheddar which crunches as the calcium crystallises in the cheese. So they say. I can only tell you that I can't stop eating that cheese!