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In the current climate price rises are inevitable. Businesses clearly don’t want to do this and many will put it off as long as possible, but as Jen Grimstone-Jones, co-owner of The Pangbourne Cheese Shop, explains, most of the customers who buy artisan cheeses understand the challenges to the business right now.
“We are having to pass some of these price hikes onto customers, but we are also really aware that everyone is struggling so we are trying to absorb the increases where we can. The majority of our customers are prepared to pay that little bit more for high quality and they would rather have less of something really nice than a lot of a lower quality product.
“I do think the British public are keen to support British cheesemakers and will continue to buy their produce where they can. A lot of people are supporting smaller independents like ourselves and we are very grateful to all of our customers.”
Food businesses, in general, are being disproportionately hit by the current crisis. At Rowcliffe, one of Britain’s leading importers and distributors of cheese and fine foods, they have an umbrella perspective on the cost of living crisis and how it is affecting all aspects of food production and distribution.
“Fuel prices have a direct effect on transport costs and therefore on distribution costs, these drive-up production and distribution costs and hence lower profits for businesses,” says Sunit Mehta, managing director. “Food businesses are being forced to pass on their rising costs to customers as they report being worse hit by inflation as compared to other businesses.”
For many businesses, not putting up prices just isn’t viable, but most will try to minimise this as much as possible. Online artisan food market, Yumbles, has seen this first hand. “Unfortunately, the price rises are impacting just about every cheese producer on Yumbles, across nearly every aspect of their production,” says Katie Kitiri from Yumbles.
“For example, cheese producer Godminster has reported packaging and raw material supplies have gone up in price, but that increase varies wildly depending on the supplier, between 15% to 57%. This is the same story affecting the vegan alternative producers on Yumbles too.
This can be a particular challenge for small and artisanal producers and with such an extent in rises it is inevitable that some of the increase has to be passed onto customers. However, we have seen for now at least that most producers on Yumbles are sparingly rising prices, and where they are, they are often looking to add more value to customers in other ways, such is their pervading commitment to customers.”
The Cheese Lady near Edinburgh, selling farmhouse and artisan cheeses, has had a similar experience so far. “The rising costs of fuel and raw ingredients are definitely affecting the traditional cheese sector. However, so far we have been fortunate not to get too many price increases from the majority of our suppliers,” says Svetlana, The Cheese Lady.
But Svetlana knows it’s only a matter of time before the issue does land on her doorstep. “It is inevitable and when our purchase costs rise, the increases will have to be passed on to customers.”