New Zealanders are buying better quality cheeses as they explore different speciality cheese including locally-made takes on classics such as feta, halloumi and Parmesan.

Speciality cheese is the big winner with Nielsen Supermarket Sales MAT to 14 July 2019, showing specialty cheese has grown by 7.3% in value and volume compared to the corresponding time last year. The same data shows the total value of sales of cheese in NZ are up by 2.9% compared with the same time the previous year, with a value growth of 6.3% vs one year ago.

The figures were released by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA). Each October the Association hosts NZ Cheese Month to celebrate the hard work and dedication of the country’s cheesemakers.

NZSCA Chair Neil Willman says the sales figures are clear proof that New Zealanders are embracing the local cheese industry and getting more adventurous in their tastes as they do so.

“It’s a reflection of the change to a more international style of eating. New Zealanders are wanting to explore different tastes and flavours and our cheesemakers are offering a broader range of cheeses to meet this demand.”

“As well as making the traditional cheddar we’ve grown up loving, NZSCA members are making speciality cheeses which haven’t been seen before in NZ such as; Mexican cheeses like Cajeta and Oaxaca, or Italian favourites such as mozzarella, ricotta and mascarpone and interestingly other Italian styles which are less familiar in New Zealand such as; Scamorza, Stracciatella and Stracchino.“

Neill says it’s wonderful to see the growth in sales of NZ-made cheese – and this October he’s encouraging Kiwis to put even more NZ-made cheese on their plates!

SEARCHING FOR NZ’S FAVOURITE CHEESE COMPANY

In a first for Cheese Month, the NZSCA is working with Barker’s of Geraldine to find Kiwis’ favourite NZ Cheese Company.

Cheese lovers’ are being encouraged to vote for their favourite NZ Cheese Company. The NZ Cheese Company with the most votes at the end of NZ Cheese Month will be named Barker’s NZ Cheese Month Favourite Cheese Company

Voting will be promoted via CheeseloversNZ Facebook and Barker’s of Geraldine social media.

NEW ZEALAND’S TOP CHEESE TRENDS

NZSCA asked experts on New Zealand-made cheese what the hottest trends in NZ cheese are. Here are their insights:

 Cookbook author and food expert Lauraine Jacobs

Goat Cheese

“I love the way we have really begun to embrace goat cheeses. Especially the soft fresh cheese that’s perfect for cooking or to add a dollop to top a salad. It always used to seem pretty goaty but now there are lovely refined fresh herbal flavours that stand out.”

Owner of Nourish magazine and chair of Waikato Food Inc, Vicki Ravlich Horan

Melts

“Waikato Food Inc recently ran our inaugural Melt Challenge and it was a huge hit among chefs and the public.  New Zealanders have grown up on cheese toasties, granted these were usually made from white bread and a slice or two from a 1kg block of cheddar.  The Melt Challenge and others like, it show classic comfort food from our childhoods doesn’t need to be one we hide from, but one we celebrate as we illustrate how far food has come in the past 20 (or for some of us 30/40 years).”

Restaurant owner and executive chef of Palate, Mat Mclean

Cheese as the vegetarian ‘super food’

“Cheese is always the hero of our vegetarian dishes and the huge growth in demand for vegetarian cuisine is seeing us use more and more cheese. We select cheese by the season and in the spring and summer our dishes are all about fresh cheeses like Mozarella and Ricotta. Whereas in the cooler seasons we favour aged hard cheeses. In the 15 years I’ve been excited to see the huge lift in quality of NZ specialty cheese. Cheese is a personal favourite love for me to cook and to eat.”

 Owner of C’est Cheese, Featherston – winner of Huntley & Palmers Favourite NZ Specialty Cheese Shopping Experience 2019 – Paul Broughton

Consumers looking for cheese provenance

“Over the last few years we have seen a huge increase in consumer awareness relating to New Zealand artisan cheese. People want to know the provenance of the product they are buying and are very keen to hear the stories behind NZ’s very talented bunch of cheesemakers. We are very fortunate to have a diverse and extremely dedicated cheesemaking community and its very satisfying to now see the public wanting to be more engaged with their cheesemakers”

 Farro Deli Manager, Charlie Cai              

Beyond cows’ milk cheese

“We’ve been really excited with the variety and number of non-cows’ milk cheeses being produced locally. We’re seeing the likes of marinated buffalo cheese from Clevedon and seasonal fresh goats cheese from small herds in Marlborough and Wairarapa. Overall we’ve noticed customers’ taste for sheep, goats and buffalo milk cheeses continues to grow.”  

New World Cheese Category Manager, Rebecca Tuhakaraina

Cheese Platters

“Prepared or convenience foods are sparking huge interest with New World customers.  One of these is our of range of delicious Cheese Platters, from the tried and true tasty classics in the Classic Cheese platter to the locally crafted Kiwi Cheese platter. As well as receiving a great solution to help cater for groups, customers can also receive advice on serving suggestions and the best beverages to pair with cheese from our friendly deli staff.”

To keep up to date with other cheese tasting and experiences during NZ Cheese Month check out CheeseloversNZ Facebook.

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