I believe that education is the nucleus of the specialty cheese market. It is a world that is still surrounded by an air of mystery, and in fact, somewhat intimidating to many people, even though cheese consumption in the U.S. stands at an all-time high with per capita cheese consumption over 38 pounds annually.
Education is a “grate” way for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) to create advocates for Wisconsin cheese through the retail channels as, per IRI, 25% of grocery store cheese sales are handled by trained deli or specialty department staff.
Consumers often come to the cheese counter seeking information. In order to sell cheese, it’s important for great deli staff to have a depth of cheese knowledge — from the farm gate to the cheese vat — and they must be able to educate customers about cheese. Retail counter staff and cheesemongers are the people in that role, working to share their knowledge and entice shoppers to fill their grocery carts with specialty cheeses. They are an invaluable and final link in the supply chain.
In Wisconsin, we have the heritage, the expertise, and the local resources — not only to make award-winning cheese — but also to build a world-class education platform. We are home to the only Master Cheesemaker Program outside of Europe, and many of our cheesemakers are third- and-fourth generation family members who are still following recipes and techniques brought over from the Old World.
It’s actually a great pairing
It’s not a coincidence that specialty cheese has exploded in popularity as consumers have begun to expect more transparency in the food system. People want to know what’s in their food and how it’s being made, and that shift in perspective has set the stage for massive growth in the specialty cheese market.
Behind every great cheese is a great story, and in front of it is a highly educated cheesemonger who knows the details of that story and can convey it to the customer. This is their ultimate superpower — the ability to turn value-minded grocery shoppers into cheese aficionados who don’t hesitate to spend a little money on a carefully crafted, finely-aged cheese from a little-known processor from a town they’ve never heard of before.
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