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

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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