“Don’t sway to populists”

25 August 2016, 15:00 pm
Cheese Talk by Charles Martell

With consumer demands continually fluctuating and markets changing on a yearly basis, it’s almost impossible to predict what the new craze or sudden ‘loser’ will be.

That’s why I believe – and always have – that you should stick to your ethics and morals and never lose sight of why you started producing cheese in the first place. Stick to what you believe in and stay niche; the more diverse or non-specific you become as a maker, the quicker you lose sight of your focus and audience.

My first love lies within Gloucestershire breeds and it’s been a dream to be able to live in this special county whilst producing handmade cheese for genuine cheese lovers. However, some modern cheesemakers today are quick to cut corners and make a profit – occasionally out of choice, but sometimes out of necessity. Cheese lovers will know: artisan cheeses are not a way of making good money quickly! A true artisan cheese cannot be produced in the volumes asked for by supermarkets and, with Stinking Bishop, we have intentionally avoided stocking the supermarkets. We wanted to stay true to our roots and true to hand-produced cheese, which has been an unintentional strategic masterstroke…

We produce cheese in relation to demand, which means we can honestly retain our exclusivity in a competitive, but often fragmented cheese market. That’s not to say you shouldn’t make it easier for your audience to find and purchase your product. As a result of demand, we are now selling Stinking Bishop online! But these days, there is a fine line between those who appreciate real artisan produce and those who are swayed by trends, and this line is becoming ever finer. Despite what the ‘experts’ or trends in the industry may suggest, I’m a firm believer that you should stand your ground and not sway to populists –  consumers recognise a cheese which is crafted with authenticity and passion.

We’ve purposely ensured Stinking Bishop is unique and almost impossible to replicate, by using our location and our own farmed produce. Everything that we use to make the cheese is here on our farm. We’re linked to the land. It may not be to the taste (or smell) of everyone in the market, but that’s okay. By creating a product which is entrenched in your core values and beliefs, such as our love for our provenance and how we treat our livestock, you produce a product your customers not only recognise, but truly appreciate and enjoy.

What you’ll see today is that there is a very wide gap in the middle of the cheese market. There are only really two options: either stay small and specialist and understand your audience, or sell to the mass market and lose your handmade element. For me personally, creating artisan cheese for a select audience that understands what they want has always been a dream and a passion that I’ve managed to realise and that’s why I’ll never change. Honest, handmade and authentic cheese – you can’t beat it.

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