A new cheese distributor has been set up to help Sainsbury establish a distinct speciality cheese category and stock more regional products.
Bridgehead Food Partners is a 50-50 joint venture between Nantwich-based cheesemaker Joseph Heler and Wrexham food marketing consultancy Levercliff Associates.
Levercliff’s Barry Green said: “Sainsbury recognised that its customers were increasingly demanding regional cheeses but there was not an effective or efficient supply route in place. They were not geared up to taking cheeses from smaller regional producers.
“Historically, small producers were brought into Sainsbury on the transport of several larger producers. While this worked in terms of the physical distribution, no-one was managing speciality British cheeses as a category, matching local demand with supply. Yet Sainsbury sees this as a significant opportunity.”
Bridgehead will act as a link between Sainsbury and the UK’s regional cheese suppliers. Bosses will actively seek traditional cheesemakers to join the company’s ranks. They will stage cheese forums twice a year at which they will promote the concept of the company.
One of the first cheesemakers on board is Dorset-based Ashley Chase, which makes the Ford Farm range. MD Mike Pullin said he was hopeful the new arrangement might mean he was able to sell more cheese to Sainsbury. “We’ve got some unusual products and it will be a way we can get closer to the buyer.”
Sainsbury cheese buyer Sarah Mackenzie said: “With a revival in British speciality cheesemaking and customer demand for local sourcing, Sainsbury sees British speciality cheese being increasingly important.”