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.”