Artisan cheese marketer reveals why we reach for that cheese


Sylvia Burgos, 5/26/08 • Natural food stores, high-end food sellers and chain grocers are expanding their selections of artisan cheeses. So many choices! If you’re like me, you may find yourself staring at wedges you know little or nothing about. Of course, if you love cheese, this won’t stop you from buying…something.

When I get home from the co-op, I’ll often sort through my purchases and realize that I’ve made my selections based on curious names or attractive labels. Hardly scientific or academic, but very human, especially when faced with an item that offers a new twist to a loved product – handcrafted cheese.

Andrea Neu, a marketing consultant with the Dairy Business Innovation Center, Madison, Wisconsin, works with cheese producers all across the Midwest on this very aspect of food shopping. In this field for more than 30 years, Neu has participated in years of consumer research to investigate buying preferences. She helps her clients understand how to name, package and display their artisanal products so that shoppers like you and me will be prompted to try, and then buy again.

You can listen to her interview on this podcast.

The growing interest in artisanal cheeses has spawned a growing collection of instructional books, many of which let you know which producers welcome visitors. Here are a few in my library:

* Steven Jenkins, Cheese Primer. Still the first reference book I reach for when I bring home a wedge or round of new cheese.

* The New American Cheese, by Laura Werlin. Great descriptions of cheeses and their producers, along with recipes.

* The Atlas of American Artisan Cheesee, Jeffrey Roberts. With a forward from Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food Movement International.

* The Cheeses of Wisconsin, by Jeannette Hurt. This is a travel guide, and a really useful resource for those of us who want to visit our cheeses at the source.

Have you tried any interesting artisan cheeses lately? Let us know. I’d love to hear from you and find out why you’ve purchased your cheeses.

Till next time – when we’ll focus on the artisan bread, cheese and wine of summer – eat well, eat thoughtfully, and whenever possible, eat locally.