Artisan cheesemakers talk cheese trends, flavor inspiration
Dairy Foods spoke with two artisan cheese companies from opposite sides of the country about what’s trending in their category, what their most popular cheese flavors are and more.
Rogue Creamery is an organic artisan cheesemaker from Central Point, Ore., that specializes in producing blue cheese, cheddars and more. Websterville, Vt.-based Vermont Creamery is an artisan cheese company that specializes in fresh and aged goat cheeses, and fresh cow cheeses. Dairy Foods talked with FM Muñoz, director of marketing for Vermont Creamery, and Francis Plowman, marketing director for Rogue Creamery.
Dairy Foods: What trends are you seeing in the artisan/specialty cheese categories?
FM Muñoz: Consumers are interested in unique and even unlikely flavor combinations. It’s our job to innovate and find the synergy between multiple flavors to determine the winning recipe. Packaging needs to reflect and add value to the product within — consumers have become increasingly focused on issues of sustainability. We think that opens the door for innovation in the packaging arena.
Francis Plowman: [We’re] seeing a trend toward smaller formats, convenience packaging, as well as a growth in organic cheese.
Dairy Foods: What are your most popular flavors and/or varieties?
Muñoz: Our cranberry goat log with orange peel cinnamon is popular with consumers right now. The sweetness of the cranberry offers a balance to the tangy goat cheese. It’s versatile and unfussy and people love it. Our wrinkly-rinded cheeses like Bonne Bouche have pioneered a new category in the American cheese market — through them consumers are embracing a whole world of soft cheeses beyond brie.
Plowman: Our blues are the most popular, followed by flavored cheddars.
Dairy Foods: Where do you get your new product and flavor inspiration?
Muñoz: We have always made cheeses we love eating — so when we sit down to talk about new flavors, the conversation is driven by our personal experiences with food. We get our inspiration from the chefs who use our products every day and from the consumers who let us know, in their own way, what’s missing from their grocery store shelves.
Plowman: By visiting with customers. Customers tell us what they need and we work diligently to create. That’s why we have over 10 blue recipes.
(Customers for Rogue Creamery include wholesale distributors, retailers, foodservice, chefs and its own retail shop customers, according to Plowman.)
Dairy Foods: What are consumers asking for in the cheese market?
Muñoz: Interest in specialty cheese is growing. Consumers are broadening their horizons and shopping for the story behind the cheese as much as the cheese itself. People want to know where their food comes from and how it’s made.
Plowman: [They’re looking for more] organic cheese.
Dairy Foods: How do you market and get the word out about your products?
Plowman: We see competitions as key for positioning our brands and working directly with certified cheese professionals and cheese mongers on messaging and flavor profiles.
Muñoz: Vermont Creamery has achieved success by staying true to our core values, and we make sure that our products are marketed in a way that reflects that mission. We strive to be authentic in our message and transparent about our rigorous standards.