Sales of British cheese Stilton have plummeted by up to 30% due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to new figures by the Stilton Cheese Makers Association (SCMA).
The drop in sales comes as a result of the shutdown of the UK’s hospitality and events industry, the closure of farmers markets, and export markets also being in lockdown.
The SCMA is is urging consumers to buy Stilton and other British cheeses to support the industry and stop producers from going out of business, while protecting “an important part of the UK’s cheese-making heritage.”
Falling sales are also having an impact on British dairy farms as Stilton cheesemakers use milk from over 70 farms across Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
In response to the pandemic, cheesemakers are having to reduce the amount of Stilton they are making while trying to process all of the milk from the farmers which supply them to avoid wasting it.
Stilton is the UK’s most popular blue cheese, according to the SCMA, and is the only British cheese with a certificated trademark to protect its British heritage, meaning it can only be produced following a time-honoured tradition. It was the first British cheese to be awarded the protected designation of origin status (PDO) giving it the same status as champagne.
The SCMA is concerned that impact of the coronavirus crisis will discourage the next generation of cheese makers and that some producers could go out of business as the hospitality and food service industry continues to be impacted by the lockdown.
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.”