The organization has launched a campaign, #Fromagissons, to encourage consumption of traditional French cheeses.
CNIEL said that in the first few weeks of lockdown, sales of ‘regular’ dairy products rose dramatically, especially liquid milk, butter and cream and cheese.
However, the organization said, this has led to an increase of sales of basic products while other categories, such as traditional cheeses, have seen a reduction in turnover of up to 60%. CNIEL said consumers are buying basics and not allowing themselves the pleasures of more indulgent foods, many of which are perishable.
While dairies that produce food for mass distribution are running at full speed to meet a surge in demand, smaller companies have been affected by a reduction in sales to restaurants and a drop in exports. They are also being affected by the loss of foodservice, and the closure of markets where cheesemakers would traditionally sell their products.
CNIEL said that it is particularly concerned about the many PDO and PGI cheeses the country produces, and wants to maintain the image of the nation as a country of 1,000 cheeses.
Last month, Sodiaal, the leading French dairy cooperative, called on distributors to promote the diversity of French cheese in their stores.
Sodiaal said without help, some products, which have seen sales drop from 25% to 80%, may not survive the crisis.