Britons turn to goat's cheese

Related tags Cheese Uk

Britain boasts more than 400 different varieties of cheese, but the
UK has never been particularly known for its goat's cheese - until
now. Goat's cheese is now so popular, claims supermarket group
Tesco, that goat farmers are having to rapidly expand their herds
to keep up with demand.

According to government figures cited by the supermarket group earlier this month, the number of goats in the UK has risen from 74,000 in 2001 to 88,000 in 2003, driven almost entirely by increasing demand for the cheese. The UK goat's cheese market is now worth £13.7 million.

While goat's cheese has always been hugely popular across the Channel in France - some 85,000 tonnes of goat's cheese were made there last year, making it the world's biggest producer - it has been slow to gain popularity in the UK.

But Tesco alone has seen huge growth in goat cheese sales over the last few years - 52 per cent between 2001 and 2003 - as consumers have broadened their horizons in the search for different flavours and textures.

"Back in the '90s only absolute gourmets wanted to know about goat's cheeses and you would have to visit specialist delicatessens to find them,"​ said Tesco cheese spokesman Mike Seymour. "But over the last five years UK goat farming methods have improved which has led to better quality milk and cheese. It is this richer, cleaner and more lemony taste that has won over the public."

The advent of cheap travel, in particular to France, has also had a major impact on sales in the UK. "Nowadays more people than ever before visit Europe where goat's cheese is very popular so I think things like the Channel Tunnel have a profound effect on widening our cheese tastes,"​ said Seymour.

"A few years ago it was inconceivable for a British supermarket like ourselves to stock 15 goat's cheeses because they just would not have sold - now they are one of the largest growth areas in cheese retailing."

But he also stressed that British consumers were keen to try the home-produced goat's cheese rather than imported cheeses from France or elsewhere. The current top five most popular goat's cheeses sold by Tesco are all British varieties: Capricorn, Honeycroft, Village Green, Gevrik, and the company's own label Welsh Goat's Cheese in Pepper.

Capricorn, which is also the top selling goat's cheese in the UK as a whole, is made by one of the UK's biggest goat cheese suppliers, Lubborn Creamery based in Somerset. It is enjoying an annual 20 per cent growth in productivity, according to the company's Christina Baskerville, who added that goatherds of the dairies that supply Lubborn with milk have grown by 30 per cent over the last three years.

Cheese consumption - be it goat's cheese or any other variety - in the UK still lags well behind much of Europe - France and Greece top the list with around 24 kg a head, well ahead of the UK with around 10 kg per capita - but a growing awareness of the variety of cheeses available, including goat's and ewe's cheese, and their promotion by supermarkets and celebrity chefs should help push up consumption in years to come.

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