The events of the last 20 months are leading to a new family dynamic, one of returning to older values, based not as much on lower incomes, but on a reevaluation of family values.
The COVID statistics are staggering, as are the implications. In the United States, over 750,00 people have died. Considering many of the deaths are from the retired or very young people, the removal of over 500,000 people from the workplace is significant.
People are taking up baking, fermenting, adding to their spice cabinets, brewing and cheesemaking. The result may not be perfect or comparable to fine dining, but it also may be more delicious. It is certainly much less expensive.
For other consumers, changing circumstances, including the loss of a job, have led to realizations that it is financially viable for only one person to work and, even with a lower family income, there are benefits. Less travel, cooking and eating meals at home, no need for work clothes and day care, lower entertainment expenses have changed outlooks about what is important.
Cheese sauces are also in the same category. Some of the products may not be made commercially, or not made with the same quality, so they can be made in-store or at a commissary.
While fondue may seem a bit exotic, the cheeses can vary. Fondue and raclette are foundation foods in other countries. These offer quality nutrition, are easy to prepare and economical.
Pricing and selections are other areas to re-evaluate. Local and national cheeses are becoming more popular. In the world of elite cheese lovers, it is well known that American cheeses are on the same level as the finest European imports. Whether national or imported, the finest of the fine are often very expensive. The average customer is not looking for a cheese that costs $30 or $40 a pound, but cheeses that they can use for everyday meals.
Retailers should be marketing these cheeses as the great quality they are. Great cheese comes from great milk, which is the result of quality pastures and feed, of the care and handling of animals as well as excellent sanitation. The next step is well-trained and educated cheesemakers who make cheese to the highest quality standards. Quality is not the sole domain of small farms.
Do not discount local, smaller operations, either. Some of the country’s best cheese comes from small cheesemakers. They may need more economic help during tough times. Lowering gross margins can offer consumers an excellent value while helping local communities. Bargains can occur when farmers, cheesemakers and retailers work together. Just as consumers are rethinking life strategies, retailers need to become more creative, too.