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RSVP for the 2/19 Annual Meeting

Calling all Guild Members!  We hope you’ll join us on Sunday for the 2017 Annual Meeting of members from 12-3pm at Tomales Town Hall (27150 Highway One, Tomales, CA).  If you haven’t already, please kindly RSVP here by FRIDAY.  Come share lunch with fellow members, meet the 2017 Board of Directors, learn about and get involved in 2017 Committees, hear the latest updates from the California Cheese Trail Map and the California Artisan Cheese Festival, and more!

See you Sunday!
Anthea & the Board of Directors

Welcome to the 2017 Board of Directors!

With the arrival of the new year, we’re delighted to announce the results of the 2017 Board of Directors elections.  We’d like to extend a very warm welcome to our newly elected and reelected Board members who will be seated at our January 10 Board meeting for 2-year terms:

Waldemar AlbrechtCheese Plus
Rebekah BakerTony’s Fine Foods
Felice CharltonPoint Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
Sue ConleyCowgirl Creamery
Phillip FrancoSierra Cheese
Marco MoramarcoPazzo Marco Creamery
Maxx ShermanMaxx Sales & Marketing

These newly elected and reelected Board members will join returning Board members to make up the full 2017 CACG Board of Directors.

Waldemar AlbrechtCheese Plus
Rebekah BakerTony’s Fine Foods
Felice CharltonPoint Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.
Sue ConleyCowgirl Creamery
Lynne DevereuxButter Communications
Phillip FrancoSierra Cheese
Tamara HicksTomales Farmstead Creamery
Reggie JonesCentral Coast Creamery
Rick LafranchiNicasio Valley Cheese Co.
Emiliano LeeCheese & Sundry
Marco MoramarcoPazzo Marco Creamery
Emily ShartinTomales Bay Foods
Maxx ShermanMaxx Sales & Marketing

We’d also like to thank our outgoing Board members, Jon Bowne, Marnie Clarke, Sarah Dvorak, and Walter Nicolau for their dedicated service.

CACG Board of Director Elections

It’s election time for the 2017 Board of Directors of the California Artisan Cheese Guild! We have a 13 member Board, and 7 of those seats are up for election.  We have 9 great candidates who are seeking these seats.  Below is more information about the candidates.  I have also included their contact information so that you contact them to ask questions or discuss their candidacy. The Guild By-Laws provide that a majority our Board be artisan cheesemakers.  Of the 7 seats up for election, at least 4 of them must be filled by artisan cheesemakers. Please note that we are electing candidates to serve 2-year terms. The Guild would like to thank for their service the four retiring Board members who are not seeking re-election: Jon Bowne, Marnie Clarke, Sarah Dvorak, and Walter Nicolau III.

The voting period is from December 12 – December 23, 2016.  At the commencement of the voting period we will distribute access to a Survey Monkey ballot that members can use to submit their votes.  As a reminder, only our cheesemaker and trade member classes have voting status.

Nomination Subcommittee
Jon Bowne & Emily Shartin

Here are your candidates:

Waldemar Albrecht

I have been working with cheese for almost two decades.  I began my career as the buyer for the acclaimed Pasta Shop in Berkeley in 1999. In 2003, I later moved to Manhattan to become the Maitre Fromager at Artisanal Fromagerie and Bistro and opened the Artisanal Cheese Center. There I worked as a buyer, educator as well as doing corporate sales. At the beginning of 2013, I moved to California, where I worked at The Cheese Shop of Healdsburg and Oliver’s Markets. As of August of 2016, I am the Cheese Buyer at Cheese Plus in San Francisco. As a passionate advocate for the American Cheese Movement I have been a Member for the California Artisan Cheese Guild for 2 years and am seeking re-election.

Contact: waldy72@gmail.com

Rebekah Baker

My career in the cheese world started at Pastoral Artisan in Chicago in 2009. When I moved back to California I worked in various Whole foods around Northern California including Coddington in Santa Rosa, Folsom and Roseville as a specialty cheese buyer and associate team leader for the Specialty Department.  In 2013 I had the opportunity to work for Nugget Market as their Corporate Director of Specialty Cheese.  In November 2016 I transitioned to working for Tony’s Fine Foods as the Category Manager for Cheese.  I received my ACS CCP certification in 2014.  I’ve been a two time cheese judge for the California state fair, a chef instructor at the California Artisan Cheese Festival, a member of the ACS Scholarship committee and have appeared on a variety of TV programs as a cheese expert.  I’ve had many opportunities to bring together my twin passions for cheese and education.  I would be honored to have the opportunity to serve on the board of the California Artisan Cheese Guild.

Contact: rebekah.m.baker@gmail.com

Felice Charlton (artisan cheeesmaker)

I have over 15 years of sales experience. Prior to joining the cheese industry, I was Director of Sales and Marketing for a California olive oil company and Director of New Business for a California organic grains supplier. I have strong roots in California agriculture. Raised in Bolinas on 50 acres and having lived in San Francisco, I like to think I have a fairly well-rounded experience in both the country and city life. I have a deep knowledge of the specialty food market and my back-round and knowledge of the California food industry has served me well in premium cheese, where quality ingredients, great taste and healthful attributes are all relevant. Although my work experience has gotten me far, I am a huge proponent of continuing education. I am proud of my completion of the training program with Academie Opus Caseus that was provided by Point Reyes Farmstead and I have parlayed that knowledge into my professional and personal love of cheese.

In the past couple years that I have been National Sales Director for Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese, I have led continuing national expansion, new product launch and new packaging launch. I hope to introduce and provide innovative sales tactics to the cheese industry that truly set us apart. The good news for small and medium sized businesses is that traditional expensive media like TV and radio will continue to lose effectiveness with consumers. Grassroots technology, grounded in consumer opinion and input will win the day over spendy sales and marketing campaigns. How we reach distributors, customers, consumers and retailers will continue to evolve and capturing their time and attention is an important part of my job. I am a fan of entrepreneurs, which is probably why I so enjoy working with Giacomini family and the specialty cheese industry. Anyone who has the vision, guts and stamina to take a dream and turn it into a thriving business is someone to be admired and an industry I want to support.

Contact: felice@pointreyescheese.com

Sue Conley (artisan cheeesmaker)

I am the co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods.  The company is a producer, distributor and retailer of artisan and farmstead cheeses and was founded in 1994 to provide marketing and sales support for local cheesemakers in Marin and Sonoma County.  Before cheese became the center of my life, I worked in restaurants and was a founding partner in Bette’s Oceanview Diner in Berkeley.  I live in Petaluma with my long-time companion, Nan Haynes.

Contact: sconley@cowgirlcreamery.com

Amy Deaver

I am former nonprofit professional turned preserves maker. I have a passion for supporting local farms and the handmade process of food. I bring a strong background in fundraising and event planning and a knowledge of food processes. I am a new California Artisan Cheese Guild member and a long time supporter of local farms, local food and the businesses that support these makers.

Contact: info@lemonbirddesign.com

Phillip Franco (artisan cheeesmaker)

I began my cheese career in 2005 when I joined Sierra Cheese Company. Right after I joined, my goal was to learn as much as I could and I so I started making cheese right away and attended classes at Washington State to learn the science of cheese making. I fell in love with cheese and continued my studies at Cal Poly SLO under Dr. Tong.

This past year I went to Vermont for 10 days to learn from Peter Dixon of Parish Hill Creamery. It was an eye opening experience and I developed a new found respect and love of raw milk cheeses. Having run my own cheese business and participated in all levels of the business from cheese making to marketing and sales, I bring a unique point of view to the California Artisan Cheese Guild board.  I have been a board member of the California Artisan Cheese Guild since 2015 and I would love the chance to continue to serve. Having relocated to Northern California I will be able to work even more hands on with any California Artisan Cheese Guild projects. I am excited for my next chapter in my cheese career

Contact: pafranco3@gmail.com

Valerie Miller (artisan cheeesmaker)

I am the head cheese maker and co-owner of Orland Farmstead Creamery, located in Orland, CA about 90 miles north of Sacramento.  I graduated with a degree in Business Administration/Accounting in 1985.  After graduation I accepted a position with a CPA firm in Chico while I obtained my CPA license.  Over the past 30 years I have held the positions of Controller for a manufacturing firm and CFO for a non profit and raised three daughters. I taught herself to make cheese, using the milk from my oldest daughter’s 4-H goat.  Eventually I began teaching cheese making classes at the local recreation department which led to my meeting Paul Schmidt.  Paul owned a dairy and cheese plant in Orland and had been making Fromage Blanc for about a year when we met.  After working together for several months developing and marketing Feta and Queso Fresco, in addition to the Fromage Blanc, we decided to form a partnership. Paul and I have been together for a little over 5 years and have expanded their line from one cheese to 5 types of cheese plus 5 flavored cheeses. Their cheese is primarily sold in the Chico area to both food service and retail stores, and is also sold in the Bay Area, Sacramento Area and in Oregon.

Contact: vmiller@orlandfarmstead.com

Marco Perucci Moramarco (artisan cheeesmaker)

My background:  I graduated from USD in 1984 with a BBA in Accounting and Computer Science.  Then worked for a Public Accounting firm for 5 years. Moved to the Bay Area for a position as a software engineer.  Worked in that field for 15+ years with EDS and Dey Pharma.  I still dabble some in that field for extra income mainly doing website development and accounting. My partner and I moved to the north coast 12 years ago.

I have always been interested and passionate about artisan food making.  My parents were restaurateurs during my childhood.  I wanted to do something with food in our area that would afford the opportunity using local ingredients and combining science with art.  Cheesemaking was the perfect match and we have an excellent source of local organic milk.  7 years ago I started taking a few cheesemaking courses and have read several books.  I took a coarse at UVM in cheese chemistry and biology and a few courses from Peter Dixon and another two courses with Linda and Larry Faillace at Three Shepherds Farm in Vermont.  I started making cheese about 5+ years ago.  My parents were Italian.  I am fluent in Italian and did a stint in Bologna learning gelato making which included recipe design and time working in a gelateria. I joined the California Artisan Cheese Guild board of directors via a special election in 2016, and am seeking re-election.

Contact: marco@pazzomarco.com

Maxx Sherman

I am a 35-year veteran in the specialty food industry.  My career began in 1982 by managing a small deli in Sausalito, CA. During my 35 years, I has managed various cheese shops in the San Francisco, Bay Area including the Judith ets-Hoken Cooking Company and the Neiman Marcus Epicure department.  Eventually I began working in distribution and later in Specialty Food Brokerage. In 2004 I began working with the Marin French Cheese Co.; one of America’s longest operating cheese producers (founded in 1865) as the National Sales and Marketing Manager.  During these years I participated in all facets of the Marin French Cheese Co. operation including the manufacturing side. In January of 2011 after the owner, Jim Boyce passed away; I took the position as President of Marin French Cheese Co.  During this time I and the board of directors made the decision to sell Marin French to the French Rian’s group which also owns Laura Chenel’s Chevre.  This decision was made in-order to finance the necessary multimillion dollar up grades, necessary to maintain the quality of 147 years of cheese making. I spent the next two years working as the Director of National Sales for the Marin French Cheese Co. and Laura Chenel’s Chevre.  I did not stray far from the cheese making process as I was also responsible for the development of new products, quality control and choosing cheeses for all competitions.  This kept my hands in the curd and working closely with the other cheese makers. I created MaxxSales & Marketing Manager in May of 2013. The company is a sales and marketing business contracting its services to food manufactures that need temporary consultation or a long-term contract.  It takes on the role of an outsourced Sales and Marketing Manager as opposed to a full-time employee.

Contact: maxx@maxxsales-marketing.com

12/2: Cheese Cultures & Microbiology Class

Forget the culture wars raging on the American political stage right now, what’s happening in your cheese vat?!  What do you know about those microscopic agents of change?  The CACG Cheesemaker Education Committee brings you an evening with John Lyne, Director of Dairy Technology for Chr. Hansen, for an overview of cultures, their history, and application in cheesemaking and bacteriophage on Friday, December 2 from 5-9pm at Tomales Bay Foods in Petaluma.  This class will be part lecture with much back and forth discussion and opportunities for attendees to ask lots of questions.  John Lyne will also cover additional sub-topics selected in advance by those attending the class.  Tickets are $25/CACG member and $75/non-member and available here.

About the Instructor:  John Lyne graduated with a M. Sc. in Microbiology from University College Cork, Ireland in 1984.  Before joining Chr. Hansen, he started his career in the UK with Mauri Foods in 1986, before joining Chr. Hansen, providing technical support and project management for culture applications and innovation in cheese, fermented milks and probiotics.  Since moving to the United States in 1996, John’s work experience has included various roles in production, quality and technical management for ingredient supply companies, including Gist-brocades/DSM.  Having rejoined Chr. Hansen in 2004, his current responsibilities as Director of Dairy technology include the introduction and support of new culture and enzyme concepts, acting as a bridge between Chr. Hansen Innovation in Denmark and key culture customers.

Trade Spending Workshop 11/16

Join the CACG MarComm Committee for our upcoming Trade Spending Workshop.  Can you answer this question?  “What is your company’s trade spending budget?”  If not, you need to come to this workshop for small and mid-level businesses!  Two industry dynamos, Felice Charlton, National Sales Director for Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and Rick Lafranchi, owner of Nicasio Valley Cheese Company, take us through a plan vital to your cheese company’s success.  Learn how to allocate, evaluate and achieve better results with your promotion investment.  Valuable insider insights will be shared by special guest and long time cheese consultant, Mike Repetto.

Issues to be covered:

  • What is Trade Spending?
  • Trade Spending Objectives
  • Promotions (Retail, Timing, Evaluation)
  • Trade Spending from a Retailer Perspective
  • How to get the “Great Promotion”
  • Opportunities and Displays

Workshop will take place in the Forum Room at the Main Branch of the Petaluma Public Library.  Tickets are $20/CACG Members and $100/Non-Members and available here.

The California Cheese Experience

October is American Cheese Month!  Celebrate with the Guild on 10/23 and join us for The California Cheese Experience.  This will be a very special, exclusive afternoon on the farm showcasing a selection of our award-winning California cheesemakers in celebration of American Cheese Month from 1-4pm on Sunday, October 23.

Start your afternoon with a strolling farm tour of the scenic Giacomini Dairy, home of Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese.  You’ll meet the cows in their closed Holstein herd and learn about the history of the family, the farm, and agriculture in the region.  Following the farm tour, you’ll enjoy an intimate, focused cheese tasting full of the rich history and stories behind each as told by the cheesemakers and owners themselves.  You’ll meet the founders and artisans behind some of California’s most esteemed creameries including Bleating Heart CheeseCowgirl CreameryMarin French CheeseNicolau FarmsNicasio Valley CheesePennyroyal Farmstead CheesePoint Reyes Farmstead Cheese, and Tomales Farmstead Creamery.  The speakers will present their cheeses and provide insight on their company’s place in the American cheese renaissance.  Enjoy a selection of cheese-friendly craft beer from Lagunitas Brewing Company to accompany the tasting.

Tickets are $125 and available here.  Ticket proceeds benefit the California Artisan Cheese Guild.

SF Cheese Fest tickets on sale!

Tickets now on sale for the Second Annual SF Cheese Fest on September 17!  Join us and help us keep the culture alive!  Celebrate the art and tradition of preservation in the Golden State by tasting your way through cheeses from more than two dozen California Artisan Cheese Guild cheesemakers – pioneers and new creameries alike.  Meet our favorite partners in preservation; local makers of cured meat, pickles, jams, and more!  Sip beverages from the Bay Area’s time-honored craft brew and wine traditions, while swinging to live 30’s era jazz and dance band, The Hot Baked Goods, all in one of San Francisco’s historic venues.

Tickets are available here and all proceeds from the event benefit the California Artisan Cheese Guild.

SF Cheese Fest is made possible with generous sponsorship from The Chefs’ Warehouse, Bi-Rite Family of Businesses, Hilmar Cheese, World’s Best Cheeses, California Milk Advisory Board, Canyon Market, CHEVOO, Cypress Grove Chèvre, Food Matters Again, The Cheese Guide, Laura Chenel’s, Marin French Cheese, Mike Hudson Distributing, and Beehive Cheese.

(Photo by Miss Cheesemonger c.2015)

2016 ACS Winners

Congratulations to our incredibly talented and hardworking California Artisan Cheese Guild cheesemakers!  On Friday, July 29, in Des Moines, IA, the winners from the 2016 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition were announced.  We are so proud to announce that our Guild cheesemakers took home 44 ribbons this year.  The competition is always stiff and a record 1,843 cheeses and cultured dairy products were entered this year. Way to go Guild cheesemakers!
Best of Show 2nd Place
Bleating Heart Cheese – Buff Blue

1st Place
Barinaga Ranch – Baserri
Bellwether Farms – Blackstone
Bleating Heart Cheese – Buff Blue
Bleating Heart Cheese – Shepherdista
Cowgirl Creamery – Red Hawk
Cypress Grove Chèvre – Bermuda Triangle
Cypress Grove Chèvre – Fromage Blanc
Laura Chenel’s Chèvre – Cabecou Marinated in Herbs 6.2oz
Laura Chenel’s Chèvre – Taupiniere 9oz
Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery – Plain Goat Milk Yogurt
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Capretta Rich & Creamy Goat Yogurt
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Graziers Grass-Fed European Style Butter Unsalted
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Organic Jack-Baby Bella Mushroom

2nd Place
Bellwether Farms – Creme Fraiche
Bellwether Farms – Whole Milk Ricotta
Bleating Heart Cheese – Fat Bottom Girl
Central Coast Creamery – Goat Gouda
Central Coast Creamery – Holey Cow
Cypress Grove Chèvre – Humboldt Fog Mini
Fiscalini Cheese Co. – Bandage Wrap Cheddar – 12 months
Marin French Cheese Co. – Triple Creme Brie with Truffles
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. – Foggy Morning with Garlic and Basil
Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. – Point Reyes Fresh Mozzarella
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Cultured Classics Creme Labne Kefir
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Cultured Classics Hot Pepper Cream Cheese

3rd Place
Beehive Cheese Company – Barely Buzzed
Bleating Heart Cheese – Funky Bleats
Cowgirl Creamery – Fromage Blanc
Cowgirl Creamery – Wagon Wheel
Cypress Grove Chèvre – Humboldt Fog Grande
Cypress Grove Chèvre – Ms. Natural
Garden Variety Cheese – Sweet Alyssum
Marin French Cheese Company – Jalapeño Brie
Marin French Cheese Company – Petite Breakfast 4oz
Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. – San Geronimo
Pennyroyal Farm – Boonter’s Blue
Sierra Cheese Co. – Artisan Style String Cheese
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Bella Capra Goat Feta
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Caprae Raw Milk Goat Cheddar
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Capretta Greek Plain Goat Yogurt
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Capretta Low Fat Plain Goat Yogurt
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Graziers Kefir Plain
Sierra Nevada Cheese Company – Organic Jack-Traditional

The complete list of 2016 American Cheese Society Judging & Competition winners is available here.

ACS CCP Exam Scholarship

To all CACG Members:  The Guild has approved funding to underwrite a $500 scholarship for the ACS CCP exam fee for a qualified CACG Members to take the 2016 ACS CCP Exam on July 26, 2016 in Des Moines, IA.  A subcommittee composed of Board members Tamara Hicks, Emiliano Lee, and Emily Shartin will review scholarship applications.

What is the ACS CCP Exam?

The exam was created by ACS to encourage standards of improved comprehensive knowledge and service in the cheese industry. The exam evaluates candidates’ understanding of core competencies common to the specialty cheese industry. The designation ACS CCP after an individual’s name is a mark of professional excellence, indicating that the individual has acquired the level of knowledge and expertise that is demanded throughout the cheese industry. CCPs will be required to renew their certification every 3 years by demonstrating continued professional development.  Application Deadline for the CACG ACS-CCP Exam Scholarship is July 20.

In addition to meeting the ACS eligibility criteria (visit http://www.cheesesociety.org/events-education/certification-2/ for full details), applicant must:

  1. Be a member of CACG in good standing
  2. Have already been accepted as a 2016 ACS CCPE candidate
  3. Not have already benefitted from a company sponsorship of the CCP exam fee
  4. Submit copies of CCPE acceptance along with an original, short explanation of the candidate’s experience and goals in the California cheese community and discuss:
    1. How the CCP credential will benefit both the individual AND the California Artisan Cheese Guild in the coming years, and
    2. How this education can be passed on to advance the level of industry expertise & professionalism amongst fellow Guild members
  5. Following the exam, the candidates must write an essay about the experience to be shared via CACG website and newsletter.
  6. Submit the above by 11:59 PST on July 20, 2016 via e-mail to: scholarships@cacheeseguild.org

Exam Date: July 26, 2016

Exam Location: Des Moines, IA

**Deadline for submissions to CACG – July 20, 2016***

CACG will announce the scholarship winners on July 22, 2016.

Product Selection Roundtable Notes

Dear Members, read on for notes from the 6/1 Product Selection Roundtable held at the Park Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. Thank you to the cheesemakers, retailers, and distributors who were able to join-in the conversation and share your valuable perspectives.  We’d also like to thank Deb Fox for her assistance moderating and organizing the dialogue.

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California Artisan Cheese Guild Roundtable Notes

Topic: Product Selection               

Date: Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Location: San Francisco Public Library, Park Branch

Number of attendees: ~21

Question: What do customers look for in cheese?

  • Small and medium format cheeses for storage ease without losing the integrity of the cheese
    • Food service is seeking small-medium size (5-6lb) format – chefs concerned about both storage space and being able to serve all of the cheese before it declines
    • Soft vs. Hard? Texture not as important a factor
    • Corporate café customers like the soft cheeses because they are more approachable
  • Local cheese at a good price point that is easy to use and approachable
  • A common refrain: “I don’t know anything about cheese, but I’m looking for…seeking input from the monger to fill in the blank
  • Cut-to-order counter (customers have their hand held) vs. pre-cut (less or no hand-holding) makes a big different if a cheese is a “hand sell.”

Question: What changing trends do you see locally and nationally?

  • Customers are more interested in the carbon footprint of the cheese (how far it travels)
  • Many customers who have been shopping at The Pasta Shop for nearly 30 years gravitate toward European cheeses. Sometimes they are European or well-traveled and looking to find a cheese they had abroad.
  • In the last 5 years, counter has accommodated more American cheeses.

Question: Is the market saturated with certain types of cheeses? Are there others in demand?

  • Saturated:
    • There are too many cheddars
    • French cheeses are saturating the market because the current exchange rate makes them inexpensive
    • The market could be saturated, but people are very loyal to certain brands. Yes, there are lots of options in some categories (cheddar, blue, and brie cited), but people “like what they like” and can’t always be persuaded to switch to a different producer.
  • In demand:
    • There isn’t enough sheep cheese
      • (cheesemaker) Many people don’t realize how hard it is to produce affordable sheep’s milk cheese in California – feeding animals year round, short milking season, small amount of milk produced. With all of these factors, local cheeses still have to compete against Basque sheep’s milk cheese retailing for $23/#.
    • California-made alpine-style cheese
    • Red Hawk
    • Raw milk cheeses
    • (cheesemaker) Often people ask for something and have no idea how much work is involved in producing a new cheese – R&D, make process, etc.

Question: How should cheesemakers introduce new cheeses to distributors/retailers?

  • Provide short descriptive paragraphs about the cheese
  • Provide pictures
  • Provide samples
  • Highlight if the cheese is an award winner
    • How important are awards? Different responses – not very to distributors, more important to retailers. ACS winner stickers really help in some markets
  • Staff class – at store before opening
  • Farm tours ideal but hard for retailers open 7 days/week
  • Some customers (chefs) looking for very short tweet-length descriptions.
  • Others (retailers) savor the story and the details
  • The story is really important and can help sell the cheese…at least once. Customers are coming back for flavor.
  • Observation that lengthy and accurate information is not always available on cheesemakers’ own websites

Question: What are the factors that define a successful cheese in your selection?

  • Good story and great flavors
  • Local
  • Specialty and cooking cheeses are best sellers
  • Cheesemakers that provide tours/provide education for mongers
  • Brochures are good for distributors, but not retailers
  • An online presence is imperative for distributors and retailers to help promote the cheese, learn about the farm, etc.
  • Keep all info short and concise
  • Provide a downloadable PDF with cheese and farm info

Question: What are the reasons you (distributor or retailer) would not select a cheese?

  • The cheese needs to be exciting
  • The price can’t be over $18 wholesale/$39 retail
  • In some cases, lack of 3rd Party Audit or Food Safety Plans
  • Prior experience with cheesemaker not good, such as poor communication or unresponsiveness

Question: How much of a difference does organic make to customers?

  • There is a disconnect with customers between fluid milk and cheese. People will only buy organic milk, but not even ask if a cheese is organic. Organic milk in almost every basket in certain Bay Area markets, and yet organically-certified cheese is not demanded in the same way.
    • Co-op markets are the only retailers that request organic
  • Organic certification adds $4/# to the cost of milk production
  • However, having an organic label does provide a selling point for customers
  • Grass fed and raw milk cheese products are requested more often than organic
  • Multiple retailers report that their customers seeking organic are often satisfied with blocks and slices of “basic” cheeses rather than also looking for “specialty” cheese.
  • Artisan cheese is a “specialty” product – customers less interested in organic and more interested in flavor.

Question: For cheesemakers, what do you think about when creating a new cheese?

  • Cheeses we want to eat
  • Hole in the market
  • What the market wants now is strong flavors now, but used to be mild flavors
  • Format: size, shape
    • Cheesemongers noted that shape and herbs can be challenging for cutting and wrapping

Question: What feedback can retailers give to cheesemakers?

  • Everything! Be honest.
  • How did the cheese arrive? Include Lot # when communicating this information.
  • Are samples needed?
  • Constructive feedback is always appreciated
  • Flavor profile as cheese ages
  • If you have bill-backs, please provide as much information as you can
  • Face-to-face relationships help the feedback loop

Question: What are your feelings on renaming a cheese that is a mistake or variation from the name-recognized standard?

  • Acceptable if done at the request of the cheesemaker with cheesemonger agreement
  • Cheesemongers changing the name of cheese that has gone south on their watch is very bad practice.

Question: How do distributors get cheese samples to customers?

  • Depends on the distributor – some send with sales team, some can send to specific customers, some cannot if the sample doesn’t have a specific item code.
  • Direct drop off is the best – facetime with cheesemaker

Question: How valuable is a cheesemaker visit to customers?

  • Depends, chefs too busy and unavailable, retailers usually love it.
  • A recommendation to schedule visit through distributor because their outside sales staff probably know the ideal window for a customer visit.
  • Greenleaf stared organizing small farm tours for their chefs
  • Broker perspective – sales reps drive weekly route, always with sample(s) and taste if their customers have time. Just say hello if not.
  • If dropping in to check on account:
    • ask for buying day
    • don’t show up at lunch

Additional items:

  • If the cheese is selling well and production costs are coming down, don’t lower the price of the cheese, but apply the difference to additional promotion (tastings, marketing, etc.)
  • Price determines the value of the cheese for the customer; higher can be better, but can also be a curse. Look for the sweet spot in pricing ($25-$35/lb)
  • Cheesemongers can sell expensive cheese if there is a good retailer/cheesemaker relationship

Key outcomes

  • Cheesemakers, when you have too much cheese, reach out to your contacts in distribution and retail and be ready to make a deal to move a large volume of cheese. They want to help you!
  • Education needs:
    • Streamline communication/feedback between retailers and cheesemakers via distributors
    • Cheesemakers and retailers need to communicate production/purchasing plan to help address cheese demand throughout the year
    • Cow vs. goat milk with organic
  • Typical retailer timeline:
    • Inventory is at the end of the month so they aren’t buying at that time
    • They buy more around the holidays
    • Customer discounts help
    • Hand deliveries with samples are great for promotion