- Justin Tunstall, retail consultant and former Cheesemonger of the Year, shares his thoughts on the importance of thorough labelling
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Entirely unscientific research indicates that fewer than half of Britain’s independent cheese sellers label the cheese that they cut for customers. In my view this represents a massive missed opportunity.
Long before I got into the business, I used to buy cheese for the family. I’d spend time making my choices, asking about where the cheese came from, the milk, rennet and then sampling as the final clincher. So far, so good. But all too often the smiling and obliging cheesemonger morphed into a truculent, sulking teenager when I asked for the names of the cheeses to be put on the wrapper. Some would just slowly repeat the names as they handed them over to me; others would scrawl an illegible name across the paper – clearly having missed their vocation as prescribing medics. I took my purchases home and tried to bluff my way through the cheeseboard at the end of a dinner party: “Um, yes, I think that’s the Beenleigh Blue – or maybe it’s the Devon – you don’t have a problem with cow’s milk, do you?”
When I opened a shop, I resolved to do things differently. I invested in a thermal labelling machine and programmed it to give some useful information for each of the cheeses:
- Area of Origin
- Milk – which animal?
- Suitability for vegetarian diet
- Inclusion of any allergens
- Major awards won
- Use by date (completed if requested by customer)
- Cost per 100gms
- Contact details for the shop
One might think that this information would rival War and Peace for succinct communication, but by using the initial letters P, U, V and O, we saved a lot of label space. Customers were able to identify their purchases with confidence and remind themselves why they were attracted to the cheeses in the first place.
The benefits to my business were immediate, as customers:
- Knew the name of the cheese for a repeat purchase
- Developed knowledge about our range and were able to recommend us and our cheeses
- Had contact details for the shop to pass on
- Could keep the labels from cheeses that they wished to recall
This helped develop customer loyalty and sped up subsequent purchases.
If you have a small range of cheeses you can probably get away without investing in sophisticated labelling scales. Some producers will supply ‘deli stickers’ ; Barber’s 1833, Blacksticks Blue, Ford Farm’s Cave Aged Cheddar and the Hawes Wensleydale often arrived from the wholesaler with a handy sheaf of labels. To comprehensively cover your range, get hold of some blank labels from an office supplies shop and pre-print descriptive labels for each of your cheeses. Then close up the cheese wrap with a flourish and seal the bargain with your bespoke label!