Cheese news: What’s happening in the world of British cheese this month?

06 September 2023, 07:00 AM
  • Speciality Food rounds up some of the top stories in cheese
Cheese news: What’s happening in the world of British cheese this month?

Red Fox rebrands

Belton Farm’s best-selling Red Fox aged Red Leicester has undergone a major brand refresh as it looks to widen its appeal. Central to this is the adoption of a more eye-catching pack design, featuring a vibrant colour palate, and greater emphasis on the brand’s ‘jaunty Fox’.

The new look Red Fox packs and shelf-ready packaging will start appearing in leading national and independent retailers this month, with similar pack refreshes for the wider ‘Fox Family’ of White Fox and Smoked Red Fox, being introduced later this year.

Since its launch in 2017, Red Fox has become the leading branded Red Leicester on the market, building a loyal fanbase of predominantly older ABC1 consumers. The new pack design aims to retain these loyalists by keeping much of the brand’s core visual identity, but at the same time is intended to attract new, younger consumers through its more colourful and contemporary on-shelf presence.

The refresh is being complemented by a major social media and influencer campaign focused on reaching a younger demographic and in particular food-loving Millennials, with high profile PR, sampling activity and in-store promotional activations. Red Fox’s online campaign will run from September through to Christmas, primarily being delivered through presence on Facebook and Instagram.

Justin Beckett, managing director of Belton Farm, says, “As the leading brand of Red Leicester, Red Fox has always been the essential signpost on the cheese fixture for consumers seeking to extend their cheese repertoire beyond simply Cheddar. Since its launch, Red Fox has added value, excitement and incremental sales to the cheese category, and our investment in refreshing the brand and enhancing its marketing support is set to reinforce this. We believe that our new more vibrant and colourful pack designs will not only retain our loyal Red Fox consumers, but also attract new younger cheese lovers looking for a taste and texture sensation.”

Snowdonia Cheese Company launches two new products

Award-winning British cheesemaker, Snowdonia Cheese Company, has invested in not one, but two new product launches this autumn.

On the heels of rising consumer interest in hot cheese, the brand is releasing two cheese bakes, presented in eco-friendly, reusable terracotta ramekins for consumers to pop into the oven at home.

Each 150g serving is crafted with the finest natural ingredients, designed to share.

Black Bomber Welsh Rarebit combines the best-selling extra mature Cheddar with wholegrain mustard, Worcestershire sauce and a splash of craft ale, while Rock Star Fondue Cheese Bake will take customers to the Alps, melding the vintage cave-aged Cheddar with black pepper and Sauvignon Blanc.

A perfect match to either of these is Snowdonia Cheese Company’s second major launch – three varieties of premium crackers, designed to work with any of the brand’s 12 cheese truckles and chutneys.

Handcrafted in small batches with all-natural ingredients, the selection includes Wholemeal & Extra Virgin Olive Oil Crackers, Spelt & Natural Yoghurt Crackers, and Fig & Cranberry Crackers.

Commercial director Richard Newton-Jones, says, “Since the launch of Snowdonia Cheese 22 years ago, we have been committed to crafting exceptional cheeses, created using only the finest ingredients. Now, we’re excited to further expand our product offering with a new collection of crackers designed to pair with our existing range. The natural next step as the brand continues its growth in both the UK and international markets.”

St Helena makes its international debut

Putting your products out on the global stage is all at once thrilling and nerve-wracking, says cheesemaker Julie Cheney of White Wood Dairy (at Fen Farm in Bungay). Julie and Blake Bowden’s washed rind variety, St Helena, will make its first international appearance at the Slow Food Movement’s Cheese event in Bra, Italy this month.

“The event has been out of kilter in recent years because of the pandemic,” Julie says, “But it’s now in full swing again, and I am delighted St Helena will be there for the first time.” Neal’s Yard Dairy and The Fine Cheese Company will be presenting the cheese over the long weekend – a celebration of the International Slow Food Movement founder Carlo Petrini’s love of artisanal produce.

Julie says, as a small batch maker, the chance to have a moment in the spotlight is vital to the growth of her business, adding that it’s a “joy” for St Helena to represent the ‘best of British’ in what has become a showcase for traditionally-made cheese.

“The fair used to be all sorts of cheeses,” Julie said. “But five or six years ago Carlo said it’s become an unwieldy beast and he wanted to get back to its roots. So now it’s only raw milk cheeses from now on, which is a real boost for all of us who work so hard to get it right. It’s a delight to show what we do to our European counterparts and friends.”

Cheesemonger named Affineur of the Year

Perry James Wakeman of Cambridge’s Rennet & Rind is celebrating being crowned Affineur of the Year for the second time running.

The cheese specialist took first took the prize in 2022, at the inaugural event (founded by Quicke’s Academy of Cheese in Devon), with Priscilla – a “refined take on a Quickes Cheddar”.

But this year, it was Perry’s approach to Baron Bigod, cheekily named Vacherin Not Dor, that saw him walk off with the top gong.

Entrants (cheesemongers from across the country) were tasked with maturing up to three cheeses in 2023, including the brie-style wheels made by the Crickmore family at Fen Farm Dairy in Suffolk. “I thought everyone would go for a soft, oozy cheese, which is what Baron Bigod is known for being,” says Perry, “but, for me, it’s important to learn something if you’re going to dedicate a year of your life to a cheese. You need to get value out of the experience. 

“A small selection of people like it when Baron Bigod has a slightly chalky centre. Those notes are really subtle, with a grassy freshness, almost like a territorial. I thought I might be able to treat Baron Bigod like a Caerphilly.”

Perry only had two months to complete the challenge, which involved some competitive white lies. “I needed to use soaked spruce bark as a method of upping the humidity of the cheese, while drying it rapidly on top – which you should never do with a brie.

“It was all top secret and I had to get the bark from Kingstone Dairy – I told them I was doing a lecture with Cambridge Colleges on spruce bark!”

The day before the competition, with bated breath, Perry sliced into his experiment. “I got this rush of grass and summer freshness, with the touch of forest floor you get from Caerphilly. I was like ‘this is a really good texture’. I got everything I wanted to achieve in my hypothesis. A flavour that was really complex in terms of acidity with sour cream, crème fracihe and a bit of lemon which the judges picked up on.”

Perry says he’s delighted to have been named Affineur of the Year and says the awards are a reflection on the growing dedication and skill in the UK’s affinage community. “For me, to be recognised at that standard alongside industry legends is just crazy.”

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