“How to source and promote unusual cheeses”

24 October 2018, 16:37 PM
  • Ruth Holbrook of Paxton & Whitfield talks us through her process

Listen and talk to your customers. They will often know what is going on in the local food scene and know about cheesemakers making new cheeses that you may not. This is something I’ve found out by working with our retail and restaurant trade customers. It really pays to have an open ear to help keep your cheese counter stocked with new/interesting cheeses! Also, talk to the cheesemakers that you work with as they may well be developing new cheeses that they’d like to talk to you about.

Who do you work with, other than customers and suppliers, that you can talk to and who you think may know if there are new cheeses out there? It’s amazing what people know and over the years I’ve found new cheeses via this channel that I would never have discovered.

Get out to food exhibitions, food festivals etc. and find out what is going on and talk to producers about what they are doing. Cheesemakers will often trial new cheeses at these types of events to get invaluable customer feedback.

There are great resources today that can help you locate and find out about new cheeses to stock. Trade magazines, consumer magazines, food blogs, Twitter, Instagram – there’s a lot of information out there. Remember to dip in and dip out of this to find out if it can help. We’ve used research recently as we were asked to source a vegan cheese by a trade customer.

Once you have your new cheeses you need to train the team who’ll be selling them. The flavour, how the cheese is made, where it’s made, who the cheesemaker is and what is unusual about it. Without this important step why bother getting in a new cheese? Get the team excited and knowledgeable about the cheese and they’ll sell it to your customers.

Your customers won’t know that you’ve got a new cheese on your counter unless you tell them that it’s there. Use point of sale on the cheese counter to show that the cheese is new, put the cheese ‘on taste’ in a prominent place (by the cash register is normally a good spot) so that customers can try it. You could even produce a leaflet to give to customers about the new cheese.

If you are a cheese counter/shop that supplies local restaurants with their cheese, then when you do your next selling visit take some of the new cheese with you to the chefs/teams you are talking to. Taste the cheese with them and talk about it. It’s something that I often do as chefs don’t have a lot of time to research new foods themselves and so rely on suppliers to suggest new products.

Use your company website, e-newsletters and social media channels to talk about the new cheeses you have. Customers love a story and if you can tell them about a new cheese through these channels that’s great. The wonderful thing about social media is that it is so immediate. We regularly use social media at Paxton & Whitfield to talk about new additions to our cheese range.

If you work with a PR consultant or have someone in-house that does this for you then get them to promote the cheese to relevant media to help you create awareness about the new products. You never know where this may lead. We work with an external PR agency and they’ve given us some really interesting opportunities over the years – including one where we were invited to talk on a local radio about new local cheeses that on of our shops had started to stock. If you have the budget you may want to think of advertising the new cheeses either in print format, online or even using Facebook ads.

Enjoy getting out there and looking for these cheeses and then, having got them, promoting them to your customers. If the current climate of the industry here in the UK is anything to go by today, you’ll find some great new cheeses to source, promote and then make them into your customers’ favourites – so start looking!

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