Cheese News: What’s happening in the world of cheese in March 2024?

25 March 2024, 08:00 AM
  • Our round-up of all the cheese and dairy stories you need to know
Cheese News: What’s happening in the world of cheese in March 2024?

Butlers launching new blue cheese products

While Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses in Lancashire is still very much in recovery mode following the fire which destroyed much of its stock at the end of 2023, owner Matthew Hall says it’s onwards and upwards for the cheesemaker in 2024.

In addition to having built a temporary packing facility at the dairy, and buying Hampshire Fine Cheeses recently, blue cheese is back in production, and the team will soon be bringing a new series of products to the market.

“It’s a big milestone,” Matthew explains. “We had these plans, before last November when the world went a bit topsy turvy, to create a bigger movement within blue cheese. And we’re about to unleash those plans. For us, it’s all about saying ‘blue cheese goes mega at Christmas, but it kind of drops off a little bit throughout the rest of the year’. What is the driver behind that? Why does that happen? Blue cheese is a great product, and as a category people are interested in it, but what can we do all-year-round, to make it even more accessible and relevant?”

Through research, the team discovered consumers still very much want to include blue cheese in their occasions, but they crave convenience, and a more portable product that could be used easily in picnics, as part of a grazing board, or in a burger. 

Blacksticks Blue has formed a jumping point for the NPD process. “It’s perfectly positioned for cheeseboard usage,” says Matthew, “but it’s messy to cut. So we’ve developed Blacksticks Every Day. You get all of the flavour in terms of that rich, umami savouriness and creaminess, but when you take it out of the packet you can slice it thinly and grate it.”

Next in the line-up are Blacksticks Mega Melts – a pack of four 80mm Blacksticks slices “perfect for popping straight on top of a gourmet burger.”

“Burgers as an occasion are massive,” says Matthew. “And the black and blue burger trend coming across from the States is mega but, actually, taking a wedge of blue cheese and trying to slice it is difficult. This new product totally ticks the boxes for convenience and flavour.”

Completing the new trio is Blacksticks Dip, which picks up on the growing desire for dips and on-the-go options in fine food retail. “Cheese is consumed by 98% of households, but there isn’t a premiumised cheese offering in this space. Generally those who make dips are into food manufacturing, so you’re looking at processed dips, and those don’t fit in with consumers looking for something for premium occasions.”

Nothing is added to Blacksticks Dip. “We take Blacksticks Blue as a base and mix it into a softer version of a blue cheese in dip format,” says Matthew. “It’s just two ingredients.”

Speaking of ongoing plans for 2024, he adds, “It’s exciting undoubtedly. We’re still very much in the midst of trying to rebuild back from the fire, but we’ve got a great team of people to implement this and we’ve got the energy and enthusiasm to drive forward.”

New format for Stinking Bishop

Stinking Bishop, produced by Charles Martell & Son, has undergone a transformation with a new, smaller format now available to increase its accessibility and versatility.

The pungent cheese, named after the pear variety used in its production, can now be purchased as a 250g grab-and-go option. Director Sasha Martell, says, “The smaller size enhances its appeal as a shareable appetiser or an accompaniment to a curated cheeseboard. The creamy texture and tangy undertones create a memorable tasting experienced, ensuring that the essence of Stinking Bishop is not compromised in its downsized form.”

Sasha adds that the cheese’s “portability makes it an ideal companion for picnics, gatherings, or simply as an indulgent treat on its own, or paired with crusty bread, fruits or nuts.”

New product launch from Graceburn founder

Blackwoods Cheese Company, founded more than a decade ago by cheese-loving friends, has not only ramped up production in 2024 as it recovers from flood damage, but is in the throes of launching a brand-new cheese.

Based in Kent, Blackwoods uses only organic milk, from regenerative farms in its products including Graceburn (a unique marinated soft cow’s milk cheese) and Edmund Tew – a Langres style product imagined by co-founder David Holton during his time work in Neal’s Yard Dairy’s maturation rooms.

Fans of the product, a winner of many awards, will be glad to hear it’s back in production, following on from the return of Graceburn last summer.

Cheesemaking was halted at the dairy in December 2022 when a spate of icy weather caused the plumbing to burst, causing mass destruction. “It flooded the entire building,” recalls David. “What we thought would be 10 weeks out of action just kept dragging on and on, and it turned out to be more like 40 weeks.” The team were back doing what they do best in a new and improved dairy at the end of August 2023, though David adds it hasn’t been easy to “relaunch the business after suck a tricky time, in what is a tricky market for any cheesemaker.”

Edmund Tew is now available once more. “It’s a washed brine cheese, relying on diverse microbes for its flavour profile, and that changes a lot with age,” says David. “We start selling it at three weeks. At this stage there’s a little bit of funk, and some savoury peanut butter and charcuterie notes, but it’s quite mellow with a clean, lactic, milky core. As the Tew ages out, those savoury flavours become more and more evident.”

A new kid on the block is Blackwoods’ Hever – a lactic, washed-rind cheese with a slightly bigger format than Edmund Tew at 250g. “It’s like Edmund Tew’s naughty cousin,” laughs David. “It’s a bit stronger, a bit feistier and funkier. It really packs a punch. We’ve modelled it after the washed-rind cheeses of Burgundy, like Epoisses.”

David says they’re still working on the recipe and tweaking the cheese’s maturity, but that samples are now available for distributors, who should get in touch if they’d like to give it a try.

As for the dairy? “We’re not 100% out of the woods yet. But we’ve got a few months under our belt now, and coming into spring and summer things are feeling quite promising. We’re feeling positive about the year ahead and getting stuck in.”

St Tola Karst cheese back in production

Siobhan Ni Ghairbhith, owner and director of St Tola Goat Cheese, says she’s delighted St Tola Karst is back in production. “Spring has come around again, and we’re so happy to see our goats kidding again, especially as that means lots more raw milk here on the farm,” she says.

St Tola Karst is an ash-coated variety of goats’ cheese, made only with raw milk from Siobhan’s herd on the Atlantic Coast in County Clare. The ash slows down the development and maturation of the cheese, which develops a silvery skin of geotrichum candidum and penicillium moulds. “The silvery grey rinds reflect the limestone landscape of The Burren, here in County Clare,” says Siobhan. “It’s an area recognised as a UNESCO Geopark, famed for its beauty, and the unique provenance of its food.”

Karst is aged for two weeks, and has a fluffy, creamy texture, with note of sweet cocoa. “It makes a stunning addition to any cheeseboard,” Siobhan says.

Wensleydale Creamery opens its own smokehouse

Boasting three decades of natural cheese smoking experience, the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, has recently made a significant investment with the addition of a brand-new cheese smokehouse.

In response to increased market demand for naturally smoked cheese, the facility allows the business to more than double its current output, at a time when data from Google highlights a 43% increase in search for smoked cheese in the UK in the last quarter alone.

Marketing manager, Sandra Bell, says, “Our investment in the business’ smoking capabilities marks a major milestone for us. We’re starting to see increased interest and demand for naturally smoked cheese, and as a category it provides real growth potential for our business. The investment firmly cements our commitment to innovation in this area, and by more than doubling our capacity allows us to further develop our expertise and grow.”

Offering the latest smoking technology, the new smokehouse provides full end-to-end production and has allowed the creamery to increase its range of finished smoke flavours to include oak, beech and hickory, using FSC certified, sustainably sourced wood.

The new operation is open to contract smoking hard-pressed cheeses for other makers, with the natural process not requiring any added flavourings, colours or preservatives.

Shepherds Purse launches first organic cheese

Shepherds Purse, an award-winning artisan Yorkshire cheesemaker, has partnered with Acorn Dairy to launch its first organic cheese, Organic Yorkshire Blue.

The Soil Association approved blue cheese has taken 12 months to develop using Acorn Dairy’s rich organic milk from cows grazing on pasture in Yorkshire and the Durham Dales. Organic versions of Shepherds Purse’s other cow’s milk cheeses will follow, creating a full organic range.

Yorkshire Blue, a mild and creamy cow’s milk blue cheese, launched in 1995 and was the family-run cheesemaker’s first blue cheese. It has gone on to become Shepherds Purse’s most popular product, winning a trophy cabinet of awards including gold at the World Cheese Awards 2019.

Caroline Bell, joint managing director of Shepherds Purse, says, “We’re thrilled to have officially launched the organic version of our popular Yorkshire Blue in collaboration with Acorn Dairy. We’ve been driven by a passion for artisan cheesemaking and health, which has gone hand-in-hand with a deep commitment to farming and sustainability, ever since our mum, Judy Bell, founded Shepherds Purse 35 years ago. It’s special to be launching this cheese in our 35th year, making Yorkshire Blue available to those who are choosing organic for many reasons including for health and sustainability.”



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