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Communal occasions such as picnics and BBQs can be the perfect upsell for top-quality artisan cheeses that make time together special, so it’s worth investing time into it. We spoke to three cheesemongers about the key considerations that need to be addressed.
A summer selection
As the sun peeks through the clouds and the air gets more humid, cheesemongers and retailers need to reconsider their counter selections to cater for the season ahead.
As Fraser MacLellan, owner of Froth & Rind, explains, “We adjust our cheese selection for the summer months and try to bring in lighter and fresher cheeses. We find that things like Raclette and other melting cheeses sell less in the summer, as do a lot of blues and some harder cheeses.
“Mozzarella and Burrata are good additions to the counter for the summer as they work well in plenty of summer dishes. Some other cheeses that work well in summery salads are soft goats’ cheeses, Comté and we also promote softer Brie-style cheeses in our sandwiches.
Eleonore Deneuve, owner of Cheezelo, agrees, “I usually vary the type of cheeses from hard cheeses to soft and fresh cheeses, prioritising goat and ewe milk cheeses too. Cheeses that are also lower in fat are great to have on salads or with vegetables. Goat and Ewe cheeses are particularly refreshing due to their acidity, similarly, Burrata, Mozzarella di Buffalo and Feta are a must-have on warmer days.”
Summer brings the opportunity to try out different cheeses to your regular stocks. As Rory Mellis, director at I.J. Mellis, explains, “During summer it is important to showcase the fresher cheeses that are on offer or anything that is lighter and can be used for salads or cooking. I would always recommend trying four or five young acidic cheeses over summer.”
The picnic and BBQ opportunity
Of course, summer is the season for getting outside and enjoying picnics and BBQs. As cheese and accompaniments are often big focuses of these foodie occasions, cheesemongers have plenty of opportunity to cash in.
Fraser offers picnic boxes for the summer months, in which, “We include some wine, cheese, olives and other snacks. This is a popular gift and we often find people sending it to friends or family over the summer.”
But choosing what to put in your picnic boxes requires serious consideration. As Rory explains, “It brings opportunities to highlight cheeses that go well with picnics and items that people would like to take away outside the shop for on-the-move.
“There are a lot of opportunities for creating picnic and BBQ packages, so if you could add fresh cheese to a kit or package that goes well then people are more inclined to try a cheese that way.
“Use promotions to get people to try different cheeses and bundle them together in an affordable way so people can take them away and not have to think about what’s good for a picnic. In picnic selections, choose fresh cheeses but also something like a really good Cheddar and cooking cheeses.
“Use the warmer weather to your advantage and get outside to do outdoor tastings. You engage with your customers, get to taste cheeses that people don’t normally buy, and you can catch people in a good mood if it’s nice weather.”
Eleonore agrees. “I’d recommend having a couple of tastings and variations of cheeses based on the weather but focusing on health benefits too. Trial any cheeses that would be nice with salads or even fruits. For example, highlighting the Keto diet is great as cheeses are usually recommended.”
The tourism factor
The summer also brings tourists from far and wide to visit towns and cities across the UK. This means a new audience passing by your cheese shop and the potential to attract new customers.
For Rory, summer brings the notorious Edinburgh Fringe festival and crowds of visitors to the city. “A lot of people are on holiday for festivals, so champion as much local cheese as you can and showcase what is unique to you.
“For the Fringe, we promote Scottish cheese because it’s one of the few opportunities where we get a lot of foreign travellers and tourists and it’s a good period of the year where we‘re able to showcase the Scottish cheeses we really do well. Try to show as much local as possible and get people involved in British cheese with all the footfall passing your door.”
But down in London, it’s all about boosting sales to the customers who are getting out of the big smoke. “With lots of people going on holiday in the summer, things are inevitably quieter so we’re trying to work out ways for people to comfortably take cheese on holiday with them if they’re holidaying in the UK. This is mostly with regulars when we’re chatting about holidays.
“We jokingly suggest there might not be a cheese shop where they are going on holiday and suggest they buy some to take with them. For cheese lovers, the thought of two weeks without cheese can be surprisingly scary!”