Tuesday 18 July 2023: New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA) is launching the fourth year of its Top NZ Cheese Store accreditation programme by introducing mystery shoppers and announcing winners at the beginning of NZ Cheese Month in October.

Receiving a Top NZ Cheese Store accolade is recognition that the outlet is among the finest purveyors of artisan NZ cheese in Aotearoa. Last year 18 stores across New Zealand were recognised in the programme and awarded the title of Top NZ Cheese Store, receiving promotional materials and bragging rights!  The Top NZ Cheese Stores accreditation programme was established by NZSCA in 2020 to encourage and support sales of NZ Cheese by recognising and honouring the finest cheese stores in New Zealand.

NZSCA Chair Simon Lamb says, “New Zealand has gained international acclaim for its world-class cheese industry and cheese stores play a pivotal role in showcasing the diverse range of exceptional cheeses produced locally. The Top NZ Cheese Stores programme aims to highlight the passion, dedication, and expertise of these establishments while promoting the rich tapestry of New Zealand’s cheese culture.”

NZSCA invites all cheese stores, from bustling urban outlets to cozy rural farm shops, to showcase their exceptional selection of New Zealand cheeses. Whether they offer a wide variety of aged cheddars, creamy blues, or specialty goat cheeses, this is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on your store and the outstanding cheeses it offers. To be eligible, brick-and-mortar stores must be open at least five days a week and staff must demonstrate good knowledge of NZ Cheese.

To participate, cheese stores are invited to complete an online assessment by the end of July 2023.  These will be evaluated with the top performers receiving a visit from a mystery shopper during August and early September. When visiting the store the shopper – who will be a culinary professional – will judge it on criteria including; selection of NZ cheese, variety of NZ cheese, customer service and staff knowledge of and confidence recommending NZ Cheese, and overall store experience.

Top NZ Cheese Stores for 2023/24 will be announced at the beginning of NZ Cheese Month on Tuesday 2 October 2023.

 NZ Champions of Cheese Amateur Cheesemaker 2023/24

NZ Cheese Month is hosted by NZSCA to promote NZ Cheese sales each October. In another change this year, the country’s Top Amateur Cheesemaker will be assessed during NZ Cheese Month and named at the end of October. Timing for judging of the amateur cheesemaking accolade has been moved to allow assessment of entries by NZ Champions of Cheese Awards Master Judge, Jason Tarrant in October.

Simon Lamb says the change to the Amateur Cheesemaking Award is to align with the school and tertiary study year so students – as well as hobby cheesemakers – can easily make cheese through the year for judging in October. For more information on the Top Amateur Cheesemaker Award visit the Association’s consumer website CheeseloversNZ.


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