The FCB is aiming to break down barriers surrounding French cheese for American consumers by providing more than just a specialty cheese boutique. The store space takes on a multidimensional layout to accommodate retail, education, events, and gallery space.
“This gives us a stage to talk about French cheese through lifestyle, fashion, art and of course food with many partners and influencers to help us disperse the message,” Charles Duque, managing director for CNIEL (Centre national interprofessionnel de l'économie laitière) told DairyReporter.
The FCB chose New York City, specifically the city’s trendy SoHo neighborhood, to attract a young, diverse, and creative audience.
Evolution of fromage in the US
Americans have long embraced French cheese, particularly Brie, which was the one of the first French cheeses available to purchase in the US.
“Its notoriety began in the 70s when upscale grocery stores such as Zabar’s and Fairway in New York started stocking Brie,” Duque said.
“Americans took an immediate liking to Brie and other European cheeses, which they wanted to share with their friends after returning from trips to Europe.“
Cheese consumption and interest in artisanal foreign cheese varieties in the US has surged within the past 15 years, making it the number one category in the specialty food market.
Branching out from Brie
Americans are seeking out bolder cheese flavors, and while familiar names like Brie are still popular, there is a rising demand for robust flavors, found in French cheese such as Emmental or Fourme d’Ambert.
“American foodies are looking for more pronounced flavors so it’s no surprise that blue cheeses such as Bleu d’Auvergne are growing in popularity,” Duque said. “With over 1,200 cheeses, France always has something to please the palate.”
FCB’s New York location will feature a selection of cheese that ranges from more familiar Farmstead Camembert and Brie, to more esoteric cheese varieties like ashed goat cheese, Epoisses, or Mimolette.
”We change the selection every so often so as to keep consumers coming back and discovering something new,” Duque said.
Taste samples and social promotion are key parts of FCB’s marketing strategy as well.
The future for more concept stores promoting French cheese is bright. FCB recently signed a lease to open a similar interactive retail space in Tokyo in 2017. Plans are also under way to expand into Shanghai and the Middle East, Duque added.