Upselling blue cheese this Christmas

26 October 2022, 08:15 AM
  • Tick all your customers' boxes this Christmas with a well-balanced selection of blues
Upselling blue cheese this Christmas

Bue cheese is unapologetically synonymous with Christmas. After all, no cheeseboard is complete without a sharp and salty blue to add variety. As Patricia Michelson, owner of La Fromagerie, explains, “It is the time of year when I will bring out just one perfectly formed, rib-tickling, throat-scratching, eye-watering blue-veined cheese.”

A well-balanced selection
When it comes to stocking blue cheese, having a selection that appeals to everyone is an easy win.

As Jen Grimstone-Jones, co-owner of Cheese Etc., explains, “We try and make sure that we cater to all tastes. We have a range that includes cows’, sheep and goats’ milk cheeses and they vary from mild to strong, creamy to crumbly, there’s even a washed and a smoked.”

At Mikes Fancy Cheese, which specialises in small-scale Irish cheese, “We have a nice range on our counter, and we are lucky to have a great range of blues. If you have the space, stock at least one of each milk type, cow, goat and sheep, and a range of textures from soft to crumbly. 

“But keeping the selection tight with cheese turning over quickly is more important, as you don’t want sad, dull, sweaty cheese!”, Michael adds.

This is something Stephen Fleming, owner of George & Joseph, also recommends. “On our counter we have a range of blue styles, with variations on the intensity of flavour, texture and different milk types. We have creamy blues like Gorgonzola, sheep’s milk blue like Roquefort, and buffalo milk cheese like Shepherds Purse’s Buffalo Blue.”

Variety is extremely important to Patricia at La Fromagerie. “What makes a great blue is the melding of rich buttery crumbly pate with sharp threads of blue running through to bring their steely strength and create intensity to your senses. I believe British blue cheeses have a great depth of flavour and texture, as well as variety, but they also have subtlety and mellow fruitiness too. 

“Every year we have blues from the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Germany as well as the powerhouse blue from USA – Rogue River Blue and Smokey Blue”, she explains. 

“We will be suggesting Stilton and Stichelton of course, but also Devon and Beenleigh Blues from the UK, Roquefort, Fourme d’Ambert and Zelu Koloria (a Basque Blue) from France, our extraordinary Gorgonzola Dolce Cremificato or Naturale from Italy, Cashel Blue from Tipperary, Picos Valdeon and Cabrales from Spain, and a sweet buttery-rich blue from Bavaria – Bayrischer Blauschimmelkase (for those who want a really gentle blue).”

Upselling blue at Christmas
Despite the country facing economic uncertainty, shoppers will still be looking to treat themselves this Christmas, with many choosing to comfort themselves with luxury food items. Therefore, “Fine food retailers must meet the consumer desire for decadence and sell the dream of exciting blue cheese pairings”, Matt Hall, fourth-generation owner of Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, says. 

As Caroline Bell, joint managing director at Shepherds Purse, explains, “Blue cheese has become synonymous with Christmas and the winter weather, I think in part to the rich, umami warmth it can bring to the palate and to any dish. It pairs well with other foods and dishes that suit the season too, and it’s a cheese that becomes richer and warmer by being warmed and melted. 

“Independent fine food retailers have the opportunity to upsell this season by sharing pairing suggestions and recipes that evoke this naturally warming experience that blue cheese can offer.”

For Michael, the key to upselling is simple. “Coming out of Covid, it’s great to be able to sample again. And nothing sells cheese better than a piece on the end of a knife. Knowing your producers’ story and understanding what your customer wants in a blue will help to match the two.”

But as Matt suggests, “Show as well as tell. Create on-shelf displays and tastings that place blue cheese not only with premium crackers and chutneys, but with accompaniments like dates, jams, fruit cake and biscuits, too. 

“The beauty of blue cheese is that you have a carrier to add more flavour than a hard cheese. For example, it really lends itself to sweeter tones from fruit or honey. You can experiment with flavours and make a blue the centrepiece on a Christmas cheeseboard. It’s then that they’ll take the customer experience even higher.”

For Stephen, it’s all about creating this experience in-store. “Often our customers are looking for something a bit special and different at Christmas, so we carry cheeses like Gorgonzola Dolce at Christmas time. We spoon this into pots in front of the customer, which gives a great element of theatre which then tempts other customers to buy as well”, he explains.

Jen agrees, “We offer a lot of tastings in the shop, people can try cheeses before they buy and this always helps to boost sales. Most people do include a blue on a balanced cheese board and so we sell a lot of blue all year round but there’s something about cold winter evenings that draws people to blue cheeses.”

Christmas content supported by Woolcool – the pioneers of sustainable temperature-controlled packaging.

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