US cheesemakers plan charm offensive in UK

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First American craft brewers set out to win over UK consumers. Now artisanal US cheesemakers are launching a charm offensive.

Only a small amount of US artisanal cheese is currently exported to the UK, but this week the Artisan Cheese Exchange - a US marketing company - brought four cheesemakers to the UK to showcase 16 cheeses to leading UK cheese retailers including Neal’s Yard dairy, Paxton & Whitfield and La Fromagerie. The ACE is also main sponsor of this week’s 2012 World Cheese Awards.

Paxton & Whitfield met with the ACE this week with a view to permanently listing some of its cheeses next year. Interest in artisanal cheesemaking had exploded in the US in the same way it had in the UK 20 years ago, said MD Ros Windsor.

“I’m keen to get some over and start showing them to our customers,” she said, adding that it was important to challenge perceptions that it was “just plastic cheeses that they do over there”.

Neal’s Yard Dairy currently stocks Uplands Cheese’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve as well as Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue. The company was also considering selling cheese from Vermont producer The Cellars at Jasper Hill, said manager for buying and quality, Bronwen Percival. “More and more US cheeses are world class,” she said. “They really hold their own against European cheeses.”

The ACE currently exported between 900kg and 1,500kg of artisanal US cheese to the UK per month, but hoped to grow that to six tonnes in the future, it said.

US artisanal cheese had a role to play as an “excitement cheese” on British cheeseboards, said ACE president Chris Gentine, adding that the UK was also “a great jumping-off point to get into the Continent”.

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