Counterpoint: How to care for cheese

21 September 2022, 07:05 AM
  • Caring for cheese is a hugely important task in the fine food industry – one wrong move and your customers could be put off a certain cheese for life

Counterpoint: How to care for cheese

With the cost-of-living crisis causing every penny to count, properly looking after your cheeses and gaining customer satisfaction could just make all the difference.

The fundamentals
Looking after your cheese products is one of the fundamentals of cheesemonging. For Stephen Fleming, owner of George & Joseph, “It’s our responsibility to the cheesemaker to represent their product in the best way possible – we see ourselves as the cheesemaker’s representative.”

This is something that Gemma Ackroyd, owner of Cheeseboard of Harrogate also strongly believes, as she tells Speciality Food, “We are always “working” with our cheese. People probably think that once the cheese is on the shelf it will sell itself, but it takes a lot of looking after. If you think of how much love and time has gone into producing the cheese, then it is only right that we respect the producers to make sure their product is at its best when sold to the customer.”

Stephen adds, “This starts with us understanding the best way to keep cheese before we sell it, what the ideal ripeness or ageing process is. We closely monitor all the cheeses we hold in our shop. Whole, hard cheeses are turned to ensure that moisture is evenly distributed throughout the cheese, and we keep everything refrigerated and track batches and use by dates where appropriate.”

Julie Oxley-Hoyle, manager of Lewis and Cooper, also ensures that all her cheeses are monitored, as she explains, “We check the cheeses daily, having a routine to keep them in as good as condition as possible. They might need brushing, turning, or cleaning. We do use cling film to wrap the cheeses to prevent the face from drying out, and we change the cling film daily to make sure they do not sweat. It is a good idea to allow cheese with a natural rind to breathe.”

A good customer experience
Caring for cheese is so important because if the product isn’t at its best, the consequences could be detrimental to both your business and the customer’s health.

According to Gemma Ackroyd, “There is a lot of competition out there so we have to make sure our cheese is in tip-top condition, especially if the consumer is paying premium prices.

“We want the customer to realise that although we may be more expensive than the supermarkets, the quality is far superior. And that is why our customers come back for more. We can’t cut corners for speed as each and every cheese needs to be nurtured so that it stands out on the cheese board.”

For Gemma Williams, owner of The Little Cheesemonger, incorrectly looking after cheese is a case of potentially putting customers off cheese for life. She explains, “My father always tells a story about how he went to a cheese shop and bought some Stinking Bishop. He thought it was awful! He now knows it’s a fantastic cheese, it was just unfortunate the shop wasn’t caring for the cheese as well as it should be. It was likely either past its shelf life or had been far too warm and the ammonia was overpowering.

“If he didn’t have a cheesemonger daughter, to this day he would never have tried Stinking Bishop again. I don’t think he ever returned to that cheese shop again. You very rarely get a second chance to fix a mistake like that and you could make someone ill.”

Passing on advice to customers
Giving your shoppers the knowledge they need to care for their cheese after the point of sale is equally as important as how you look after the product in-store.

As Gemma Ackroyd puts it, “There’s no point in us going to all this effort if the customer is going to put the cheese in the back of the fridge and forget about it.

“We pass on our advice to customers so they can have the best possible tasting experience and as little waste as possible. We want them to be as enthused about their cheese as we are! And of course, happy, satisfied customers create repeat business!”

For Gemma Williams, “Giving care tips and advice from a consumer’s point of view will only enhance their cheese at home and their experience with you in the shop. They are more likely to return to your business if they have received good advice from you in the past.”

Julie adds, “Many of our customers tend to be very knowledgeable about cheese, but we remind them it is important to serve the cheese at room temperature to allow the flavours to develop and taste them at their best. It’s also always good to remind people that cheeses might develop mould and that it’s okay to cut it off, the cheese will be fine.”

By using the best practice to look after your cheeses, and passing this on to your customers, you can maintain a happy customer base that keeps returning for more.

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