Today’s consumers have an increasingly adventurous attitude when it comes to cheese, and they’re eager to experiment and stretch beyond the basics. As they look for ways to add high quality, flavorful ingredients to their at-home meals, demand for cheese – especially specialty cheese – will continue to grow.
New and exciting specialty cheeses are continuously entering the market, and the more variety you offer, the more you will sell. But what, exactly, is specialty cheese?
Defining Specialty Cheese
It can be easy to confuse specialty cheese with artisanal or farmstead cheese. To help you distinguish between the different types, here are definitions of each from the American Cheese Society:
Specialty Cheese: A cheese of limited production, with particular attention paid to natural flavor and texture profiles. Specialty cheeses may be made from all types of milk (cow, sheep, and goat) and include flavorings such as herbs, spices, fruits, and nuts.
Artisanal Cheese: A cheese that is produced primarily by hand, in small batches, with particular attention paid to the tradition of the cheesemaker’s art, and thus using as little mechanization as possible in the production of the cheese. Artisanal cheeses may be made from all types of milk and may include various flavorings.
Farmstead Cheese: A cheese that is made with milk from the farmer’s own herd, or flock, on the farm where the animals are raised. Milk used in the production of farmstead cheeses may not be obtained from any outside source. Farmstead cheeses may be made from all types of milk and may include various flavorings.
Specialty cheeses enjoy consistently solid sales throughout the year, with sales spikes around the Easter, Thanksgiving, and especially Christmas holidays, according to studies from Nielsen Perishables Group. Within the specialty cheese category, more than 70 percent of sales are attributed to the ten most popular varieties, including Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Brie, Swiss, Feta, Blue, Gouda, Hispanic, and other flavored cheeses. Cheese spreads and less common cheese varieties account for the remaining percentage of specialty cheese sales.
As consumers continue to become more interested in experimenting with new flavors, some of the lesser-known specialty cheese varieties will catch up with the classics and the category as a whole will keep growing.
Both the mouth and the nose play a role in detecting flavor, which can range from faint, to mild, to pronounced, to strong. Cheese flavors are described by the tastes they resemble, taking into account both the initial taste and the aftertaste. Some of the most popular specialty cheese flavor categories are as follows:
Aged: Aged cheeses have generally been cured for longer than six months and have more pronounced, sometimes sharper flavors than other cheeses. Examples include Aged Cheddar with Onion and Mediterranean Aged Gouda.
Fruity: Fruity cheeses have a sweet, fragrant aroma and either have a fruity quality or incorporate real fruit flavors. Examples include Strawberry Chardonnay Cheddar and Apple-Cinnamon Jack.
Robust: Robust cheeses have strong, powerful flavors. Examples include Roasted Garlic Gouda and Chicken Soup Jack.
Smoky: Smoky cheeses are filled with a smoke flavor. Examples include Smoky Bacon Cheddar and Maple Smoked Gouda.
Spicy: Spicy cheeses have a peppery and/or herby flavor. Examples include Fresh Dill Havarti and Chipotle Monterey Jack.
Because your supermarkets’ customers undoubtedly have a broad range of preferences, a good strategy is to carry a couple of different cheese varieties in each specialty flavor category.
Here is a sampling of some of the specialty cheeses available from Springside Cheese:
Garlic & Dill Cheddar
Green & Black Olive White Cheddar
Tomato Basil Cheddar
Jalapeno Pepper Colby
Two Alarm Colby Jack
Caribbean Red Hot Jack
Chicken Soup Jack
Morel Mushroom & Leek Jack
Peppercorn Ranch Jack
Roasted Red Pepper Jack
Extreme Cream Cheese
Cream cheese can turn a good casserole, sandwich, or bagel into a mouthwatering masterpiece. Most consumers are familiar with the standard array of cream cheeses: plain, vegetable, scallion, lox, strawberry, etc. However, manufacturers and retailers are now upping the ante with extreme cream cheese flavors such as:
Maple raisin walnut