Somerset cheddar maker Cricketer Farm and their 30-strong group of West Country dairy farmers are already celebrating a healthy start to the year, despite the current milk price volatility.
This month they have recorded the highest ever monthly sales of their half fat cheese brand, Cheeky Cow Cheese, thanks to a one-off Lidl promotion that saw 23,000 packs of Cheeky Cow half fat cheese sell out within a fortnight across the UK.
This was bolstered last week by the launch of a marketing campaign to boost sales across the South West and help reinforce the cheese as the healthiest alternative to full fat cheddar available.
As one of the first dairy companies in the country to sign up to the Voluntary Dairy Code of Practice in 2012, this growth is very positive for Cricketer Farm’s group of independent Somerset and Devon dairy farmers.
“The current disconnect between dairy buyers and suppliers, combined with global volatility of the milk market, has created a perfect storm that’s hitting British dairy farmers the hardest Long term buyer-supplier relationships are fundamental to a healthy British dairy sector and should therefore always be first priority for all parties in the supply chain. Looking for short term gains at the expense of our agricultural sector, with resulting knock-on effects to our nation’s food security, is not acceptable and in no way sustainable.”
Four years in the making and 18 months since Cheeky Cow first hit supermarket shelves across the South West, further encouragement comes from customers reporting that they are once again eating cheese thanks to Cheeky Cow, having previously cut cheese out of their diet over concerns of high fat levels. What’s more, Cheeky Cow delivers 17% more protein and calcium than a standard cheddar per 100g, with the newly-launched recipe containing 30% less salt too, making Cheeky Cow the UK’s healthiest cheddar style cheese.
While an increase in cheese consumption is positive news for Cricketer Farm and the dairy sector as a whole of course, MD Greg Parsons is still fighting hard to persuade national supermarket buyers that they should satisfy the huge demand from consumers for healthier dairy products.
“Unfortunately the large supermarket chains have not yet recognised Cheeky Cow’s national potential when it comes to a tasty, healthy cheese. We know the demand is there thanks to daily emails from people across the UK asking how and where they can buy it. So rather than wait for a listing, we’ve gone ahead and this week launched our online cheese shop and are already seeing sales from across the country.”
Not everyone is convinced about healthy cheese though which is why Mr Parsons and his team were in Bristol this week to launch their ‘Cheeky On Tour’ road trip. Travelling through the South West over the coming weeks, they will be giving out free cheese and vouchers and showcasing how easy it is to swap everyday products for tasty healthier alternatives, at the same time supporting farmers by ensuring they buy British dairy products.
Speaking at the Tour launch, Mr Parsons was quick to confirm just how far healthy cheese had come over the last 10 years.
“It’s easy to bash healthy cheese but taste and texture have moved on in leaps and bounds over the last decade. We’re proud to be at the sharp end of this market, producing a cheese that genuinely tastes good and one that can be used in everyday recipes and meal preparation. We’re making it easier for families, cheese lovers and dieters alike to reduce their household calorie consumption without compromising on taste – a cheeky bit of health by stealth!”
January has also seen Cheeky Cow half fat cheese become a Vegetarian Society Approved product and Cricketer Farm remain a key partner of the Department of Health’s Change4Life brand and initiatives, helping the British population make healthy food choices.
As a parting shot though, Mr Parsons challenged the country’s leading supermarkets to change the way they work for the sake of producers and suppliers, as well as consumers.
“Supermarkets are too short term focussed. Growing health concerns and consumers’ heightened ethical principles are top of the agenda, which is good news for our country’s producers and farmers and gives us all hope that the supermarkets will adapt their model and respond well to such consumer pressure. But if they do not, they risk distancing themselves further from their customers which, as we’ve seen recently, comes at an extremely high cost and is in no one’s interest.”