Cheese Is Stepping Up To The Plate In The US

July 17 2012

At The Fancy Food Show: Part Two
With guest blogger, Cedric Littman, The Cheese Advisor

As a former maker of artisanal English cheese Mercurylab asked me to visit the Fancy Food Show, one of America’s premier food trade shows.  When we started exporting to the USA some years ago we were faced with a double edged sword, that cheese made in the USA was generally mild in flavour, and that our cheese was flavourful and had a rich story.
The US taste for cheese has changed radically over the last fifteen to twenty years and now consumers are appreciating more distinctive cheeses, whether made at home or abroad.  Small artisanal farm based cheesemakers are flourishing and are nearly as sought after as celebrity chefs!  As an exporter of cheese to the US all I can say is--thank goodness!
There is also a new generation of cheese makers establishing themselves.  There are makers of cheeses from milks other than cow’s milk; makers of cheese made from hormone free milk; cheeses made with non GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) ingredients and organic cheeses.  There are artisanal cheese makers who make cheese from the milk they produce and do everything on the farm, what we would call Farmhouse Cheese in England.
What was new at the Fancy Food Show?  I did not see many new varieties but I did see increasing competition both from overseas and domestic producers.  Price is a secondary consideration with such products after flavour and quality.  Unsurprisingly, I saw an improvement is quality with better branding by ever more producers.  
One of the ways we made the US market work for us was by branding our cheese and refusing to make private label cheeses for anyone.  I see the products of artisanal cheesemakers are also branded, which is important for the farmer and the consumer.  It gives the farmer security that if the consumer likes their cheese it will be bought again, and the consumer knows they are getting cheese from the same farm. This is a good reason to use a branding firm like mercurylab, who has experience in food, retail and wholesale. They are adept at helping all of their clients differentiate themselves in the market and use their resources more wisely.