COVID-19

Save British Cheese boxes boost sales for suffering businesses

Victoria Craig May 14, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Many artisanal cheesemakers are among the small producers in the United Kingdom who plan to shrink the supply chain and sell direct. Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Save British Cheese boxes boost sales for suffering businesses

Victoria Craig May 14, 2020
Many artisanal cheesemakers are among the small producers in the United Kingdom who plan to shrink the supply chain and sell direct. Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Like victory gardens of the World War II era, an effort is underway in the United Kingdom to rally people to save Britain’s cheese industry from collapsing under the weight of the coronavirus.

Victory in 2020 terms is less a vegetable patch, though, and more a steaming pot of fondue.

Mathew Carver, founder of London restaurant The Cheese Bar, has hosted Instagram Live streams to teach dozens of Londoners how to expertly melt down cheese, add a healthy pour of white wine and simmer until they get the perfect pot of cheesy goo.

A recent session of his was part of a three-day virtual event drawing attention to Britain’s cheese industry, which, like many, is suffering under the weight of COVID-19.

Jason Hinds of Neal’s Yard Dairy says hundreds of producers lost 90% of their business overnight.

“Soft-cheese makers have a disproportionate amount of their cheese go into restaurants for cheese boards,” Hinds said. “So they had their biggest market dry up, as well as selling a cheese that doesn’t keep very long. So for those makers, it was particularly apocalyptic.”

That’s when Neal’s Yard Dairy, an artisanal cheese retailer, began selling a Save British Cheese box.

“Our first box included three of the stock of cheese that was most at risk and needed to be sold the quickest,” Hinds said.

Stichelton, a type of British blue cheese, was one of them. Joe Schneider, the owner of Stichelton Dairy, said that inclusion saved his business.

“Neal’s Yard Dairy had expected to sell about 2,500 of those boxes in a week. They sold out in four hours,” Schneider said. “Those boxes used up 93 cheeses for us. That’s a significant amount.”

Miguel Gómez, an associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Applied Economics and Management, says the COVID-19 crisis could place a greater emphasis on direct-to-consumer sales of food from small producers — like artisanal cheese makers.

“I think those businesses are trying to be more efficient in reaching consumers because shorter supply chains are less prone to disruptions,” Gómez said.

Certainly many in the U.K. seem to be responding well to shrinking supply chains. And nearly 8,000 cheese lovers from 107 different countries participated in the three days of virtual events. Thousands on social media expressed their enthusiasm, sharing recipes and snapshots of at-home cheese creations.

Even Prince Charles shared his favorite recipe for cheesy baked eggs, proving even in a time of uncertainty and social distancing, we can all rally around the cheese board.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

It’s still the question on everyone’s minds: What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The $600-a-week payments have ended, officially, as of July 31. For now, there is no additional federal pandemic unemployment assistance. House Democrats want to renew the $600 payments. Senate Republicans have proposed giving the unemployed 70% of their most recent salary by this October, when state unemployment offices have had time to reconfigure their computer systems to do those calculations. Until then, jobless workers would just get another $200. But, nothing has been agreed upon yet.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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