Barron, Wis.-based Cheese Brothers sells its holiday and cheese boards and trays online, but the company’s best practices are applicable industry-wide, including in brick-and-mortar grocery stores.
Cheese Brothers sells dozens of different gift boxes, said Eric Ludy, co-founder and president.
One of its top sellers for the holidays is its Charcuterie Box, a mix of Cheese Brothers cheeses and Wisconsin-made meat, jam, crackers, mustard and other products.
The company’s focus, Ludy said, is on giving people the ability to make charcuterie boards at home with 100% locally made products.
And the importance of the holidays can’t be overstated.
“The holidays are our busiest time, making up half of our annual sales volume,” he said.
Cheese Brothers’ product mix changed dramatically during the pandemic, when many people were spending more time at home and demanded creative ways to entertain and enjoy food without going out in public, Ludy said.
Cheese Brothers met this demand by creating dozens of cheese and accoutrement assortments, including specialized boxes for birthdays, anniversaries, and, of course, major holidays.
Holiday demand for cheese boards goes up every year, Ludy said. As presents, cheese boards are akin to an “edible greeting card” that can be shared with loved ones, he said – a perfect fit for the holidays and other special occasions.
Cheese Brothers’ core cheeses include smoked gouda, sharp cheddars and cheese curds.
How to build the perfect board
Tips from Williams Sonoma
Think goat, blue, aged, soft, and hard cheeses
Ideally, you can fit all of those elements, and of course some will pull double-duty, like an aged Gouda. Once you pick your cheese, pick out a board.
Start wisely, with star elements
Maybe you bought the cheese first, but that doesn’t mean you should use that starting point for arranging the board. Look at it from an artist’s perspective. That might mean starting with the wide, flat bowl of almonds and arranging things around it. Statement pieces, whether they’re a lovely jar of jam or a local honey, need to get their allotted real estate first, before you run out of room.
Don’t slice too much
Though it may be tempting to do all the cutting in advance because it feels like you’re making things neat and easy for guests, resist the temptation. Often people cut cheese board elements too much. Make it more organic. Rip the bread. Crumble the blue cheese. Cut just one slice out of the wheel. It makes it more of an experience. So put the gooey Brie next to a pile of crackers, or the super-creamy burrata next to bread you’ve torn by hand. Add knobs of jewel-toned grapes, dried apricots, or other pretty, whole seasonal fruits and nuts to round out the shapes and colors on your board.
Sweet with pungent; nutty with bright
Put that pungent Gorgonzola next to a tiny vat of honey and a clutch of walnuts. They balance one another out and. A raw walnut with blue cheese and honey is one great option. Same goes for nutty Gouda and fresh fruit. Some flavors just need a foil.
Consider 3 meats, because why not?
The best cheese boards have plenty of meat options, pleasing any carnivores who arrived to the party ravenous. Three types to consider: classic and mild (prosciutto di Parma), spicy like Calabrese, and super-fragrant or herbaceous, with fennel or herbs, like finnochiona.
This article is an excerpt from the August 2023 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the full Boards & Trays feature and more in the digital edition here.