The Stilton Cheese Makers Association (SCMA), which represents the UK’s Stilton producers, says its figures show the drop is a result of the closure of the country’s hospitality and events industry, farmers markets and export markets also being in lockdown.
The trade body is urging consumers to buy Stilton and other British cheeses to support the industry and prevent producers going out of business.
The drop in sales is also having an impact on British dairy farms. Stilton cheesemakers use milk from at least 70 farms across Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, many of which are fifth-generation dairy farmers.
Stilton is the UK’s most popular blue cheese, which was first written about by Daniel Defoe in the early 18th century and is the only cheese in the UK with a certificated trademark to protect its British heritage. It was the first British cheese to be awarded protected designation of origin status (PDO).
The SCMA said it is concerned that the current situation will discourage the next generation of cheesemakers and that some producers could go out of business as the food service industry remains locked down and contracts. They are also exploring alternative distribution channels such as mail order where this is feasible, to get Stilton to consumers.
The SCMA is calling on British consumers to buy Stilton rather than continental blue cheese, and said it is as versatile as any blue cheese from France or Italy.
The organization added that the cheese can also be used as an ingredient in a variety of recipes.
Robin Skailes, chairman of the SCMA and director of Cropwell Bishop Creamery, said, “Like many British food producers, Stilton sales have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. We hope that the British public will support us by buying Stilton instead of imported blue cheeses which, in turn, will support British dairy farmers.”