More Recipes, Please

Americans love cheese. We love grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, sauces and salads. Mostly, we eat these amazing concoctions at restaurants. We indulge when we are out and save in-home cooking to simpler foods.
COVID-19 has changed our lives and most likely will continue to do so for quite a while. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry has suffered, as people are hesitant to go out and mingle in groups. In some areas, local regulations have restricted restaurant access. In other areas, masks are required, and many people do not see themselves donning masks when eating out.

Because of the dangers of mingling, home cooking has seen a revival. People are experimenting, often with recipes from their childhoods using easy-to-find ingredients at mainstream grocery markets. Folks are also cutting back on the number of stores they will visit. If their main supermarket does not carry the items they want, they will not make an additional trip.

Another problem is people are just looking to cook simple recipes and favorite meals. Polenta with Gorgonzola is not on the menu. Every family member may not be a fan, and the ingredients may not be easy to find. Then again, in many simple recipes, the addition of a fine cheese may elevate the dish to a sublime meal.

Sautéed mushrooms in butter over chicken breast is delicious but adding crème fraîche to the mushrooms will add a level of richness and sophistication. Crumbled blue cheese on top of a grilled steak is a restaurant classic, and homemade blue cheese dressing is amazingly simple to make and tastes nothing like blue cheese dressing in a bottle.

While I find cheese plates easy to make, I have been doing it for years. Consumers may find the task more daunting. Just one featured cheese paired with fruit, vegetables, nuts and condiments is a complete summer meal that is perfect for when it is getting late.

But what is the trick to providing customers with the knowledge, especially when staffing is low and sampling is forbidden? Recipes. It is back to basics. Using print recipes, tear off pads and digital are great ways to educate.

When thinking about recipes, do not think just about the cheese. Homemade condiments are easy, unusual and delicious. A simple blueberry compote spooned over a room temperature, soft-ripened cheese is a sublime dessert.

Since out-of-sight is usually out-of-mind, old-fashioned print may be the best way to reach the greatest number of people. Cross merchandising is also a great way to offer encouragement.
Now is the time to bring cheese home.

Giving Cheese a Helping Hand

The impact of COVID-19 on the consumption of specialty cheese is difficult to discern. On the one hand, a lot of these top-end cheeses are served through an upscale foodservice channel, such as high-end restaurants, cruise lines and yachts, first-class airline cabins and private jets. The idea of specialty cheese as something upscale and special correlates to these types of venues. Many are closed, such as cruises, and many are restricted in volume, such as restaurants.

Of course, lots of specialty cheese is consumed at home, but, even there, a lot of specialty cheese is served around entertainment for friends and relatives—and that type of conviviality isn’t happening as much right now.
Of course, specialty cheese is an indulgence, and people stuck at home, nervous about the future, might well indulge. The fact that the refrigerator is close by to the spare bedroom or dining room table, where people are working these days, makes consuming specialty cheese easy. This is a real contrast to office employee lounges that tend to be filled with inexpensive junk food.

On the other hand, people who aren’t entertaining much may stick to basics, and if they are ordering groceries online, they certainly won’t get exposed to tastings and promotions that spur trial and impulse purchasing. They may even get bored with the items they have always liked and eliminate the purchases.

As if the stay-at-home, don’t entertain, don’t-eat-out culture promoted by COVID-19 wasn’t enough, it follows, of course, that massive tariffs imposed on imports of many European specialty cheeses, in response to an unrelated issue regarding Europe’s subsidizing of Airbus Jets, has made the situation even worse.

Food retailers seem to be mostly experiencing record years in overall sales. Obviously, though, there are people who, in an economic sense, have been very hurt by COVID-19. Up till now, most people who have been laid off have received unemployment insurance equal to, or more than, what they were paid, but think about restaurant owners unable to switch to take-out but still responsible for rent and other costs.

Everyone has to think of their own situation, of course, but we can all help. When I go to a restaurant, I tip a little more generously. I even order more food than I might normally, figuring I will take the rest home. I was out at a local Italian place where we’ve come to know the owner. We ordered a full table, then an extra fresh mozzarella and tomato caprese salad, an order of fried mozzarella, cheese ravioli, a Gorgonzola salad and few more things.
As we walked to the car, my oldest son, William, having seen me order more than usual asked, “Do you think he will make it?” I replied, “We will try to help where we can.”

Working Around Tariffs On Imported Cheese

Working Around Tariffs On Imported Cheese

The world is going tariff crazy!  President Trump put tariffs on China, and they respond in kind. Recently, the news is filled with the decision to impose tariffs on Mexican tomatoes while “dumping” charges are investigated. In the background, the U.S. has won a World Trade Organization action declaring that Europe has been subsidizing large civilian aircraft and that these subsidies have had an adverse impact on the U.S. aircraft industry.

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Getting Cheese Closer To Your Door

Getting Cheese Closer  To Your Door

The hottest trend in retailing is something called “omni-channel.”

The big example that disrupted the whole industry was when Amazon bought Whole Foods. Though this combination of “Bricks and Clicks”—or physical stores and online purchases—is often what is spoken of when talking about Omni-Channel, it can also mean many different sales venues and delivery options.

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The Rise of Sweet Cheddar

The Rise of Sweet Cheddar

I like to equate the rise of Sweet Cheddars to Breakfast Cereal. My grandmother was born in 1892, and her breakfast choice was oatmeal, although some new-fangled cereals were invented when she was a child. All were healthy and none had added sugar.

Today, cereals have insane levels of sugar and breakfast has become the least healthy meal with little differentiation between products. To break into the cereal market, a company must be a large corporation with deep pockets.

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Cheese Holds Firm Against Gathering Storms

Cheese Holds Firm Against Gathering Storms

The cheese market is in flux:

  • Milk prices have been increasing. Feed prices went up last year, so dairy farmers raised fewer cows. Yet, the United States has more cheese in storage than any year since record-keeping commenced in 1917.
  • The United Kingdom is less than a year from leaving the European Union, and there is no agreement yet between the EU and the UK. If no agreement is reached, the default is for World Trade Organization tariffs to prevail, and these are substantial.
  • The UK is a substantial importer of specialty cheese from the Continent, so if prices rise due to tariffs, demand in the UK will fall, which means European producers will be looking for new markets. The U.S. is a prime target.
  • Mexico is finalizing a trade agreement with the European Union, and the agreement includes a protection for European geographic indications — a term for products that correspond with a specific region, such as Champagne sparkling wine or Parmesan cheese. By using a grandfather clause in the Mexican/EU agreement, Mexico will protect U.S. cheese producers who use these names that are protected in Europe. But this is supposed to be effectuated through a revised NAFTA accord, and the U.S. cheese producers aren’t persuaded that this will actually happen.
  • President Trump has attacked Canada for its dairy price supports. In response to tariffs from the U.S., both Mexico and China have put tariffs on U.S. cheese.

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