Adventurous for Christmas

Festive parties call for premium cheese

Cheese boards are a staple of the festive season

CHRISTMAS comes just once a year, bringing with it a seasonal opportunity to shift some more adventurous cheese choices.

With cheese boards featuring at celebrations in households across Scotland throughout the festive season, retailers with something to offer in this area could be well positioned to impress this December.

That’s certainly the view of Billy Kevan, dairy manager at Colston Bassett, who reckons the seasonal sales figures for cheese speak for themselves.

“Cheese boards are a staple during the festive season. In December total cheese sales grow by 11%,” he said.

“Most notably, blue cheese sales can double. Colston Bassett Stilton is so popular during the festive period – one third of our total annual sales happen in the seven weeks leading up to Christmas.”

Cheese is rarely consumed in isolation and Kevan suggested retailers could generate some link sales through a premium cheese offer: “Promoting quick food and drink pairings is very successful. Drinks, condiments and cheese boards essentials, such as crackers, form an attractive offer alongside a selection of cheeses.

“For customers looking to quickly put together a festive spread, retailers can update the choices regularly to encourage additional spend from repeat custom.”

James Robinson, product trainer at Brindisa, agreed that cheese presents a great opportunity for convenience stores at Christmas time and he recommended retailers look beyond cheddar this December.

“Adventurous consumers are looking for cheeses from global producers that showcase an astonishing breadth of flavours across price points.

“Flavour is the number one priority, and authenticity is also key, whether it’s an artisan cheese that’s been made for generations or a best-seller that’s already popular in the UK,” he said.

One way retailers can build an engaging cheese offer, according to Robinson, is to offer customers the chance to build their own cheese board, a mechanic that the Brindisa trainer said works particularly well with customers shopping for a big night in.

“Retailers can build a cheese offering around a ‘create your own’ classic cheese platter for the big night in. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without cheese so shoppers will be looking for cheese products for parties and festive feasting.”

Turning to pack formats, Robinson reckons the wedge is the way to go for convenience retailers, particularly those working with limited square footage.

“Pre-packed wedges are performing particularly well due to their size and the fact they keep well; they are easier to keep in best condition for longer. Not everyone has a deli counter to temp customers into buying whole, or freshly cut cheeses.”

Wedges might go well, but in a world filled with cheese, where should retailers turn to? In Robinson’s opinion, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Spanish flavour this festive season.

“Christmas is the real opportunity for retailers to bring lesser known Spanish cheeses to the attention of consumers eager to put together a cheese board with a difference, and showcase the diversity of flavours created by Spain’s geographical extremes.

“Manchego is the most popular wedge we offer, although interest is growing as people become more aware of the diversity of Spain’s cheese offering,” he said.