25 Years of the British Cheese Awards & the British Cheese Industry

In 2018, the year that sees the year the British Cheese Awards celebrate its 25th anniversary, the British cheesemaking industry is in a positive position.
According to the British Cheese Board1. in 2018 the UK has over 700 differently named cheeses. A figure supported by entries for last year’s British Cheese Awards.  In 1994 296 cheeses were entered into the Awards, in 2017 there were 1,000 cheeses. That’s an increase of  +238%.
The same can be said of the number of cheesemakers that are working in the UK today. Although there is no official figure published for the number of UK based cheesemakers, if entries over the past 25 years for the Awards are to go by numbers have increased by well over a third. In 1994 97 cheesemakers entered the awards, in 2017 there were 134 makers. That’s an increase of  +39%.
Over the past 25 years the industry has experienced a real renaissance with new cheesemakers and new cheeses coming onto the scene. This is a far cry from the state of the industry just after the Second World War, when most traditional cheesemakers and cheeses had all but disappeared.

Peter Mitchell, chairman of the British Cheese Awards, says: “It’s incredibly encouraging to look at these numbers but it’s not just about these, it’s also about the quality of the cheeses being produced today. We have a superb industry here in the UK with dedicated cheesemakers, making award-winning cheeses that rival the quality of cheeses made in other countries. We’ve seen this in the entries that we’ve had for the awards over the past 25 years. It was also highlighted to me when Cornish Kern, a new cheese made by Lynher Dairies in Cornwall, won Supreme Champion at the World Cheese Awards in London last November.”
Over the past 25 years the different methods and ingredients used to make cheese have also changed. Although the UK will always be the home of Cheddar (statistics published by DEFRA for December 2017 of all the cow’s milk produced that month that was used for cheese production around 70% of it was used to make Cheddar2.), cheesemakers are creating different styles of cheeses and also using different milks.
For the 2018 Awards the committee created a new award, Best Sheep Cheese Award. This new award recognizes the popularity of British cheeses made from sheep’s milk. In 1994 there were 20 cheeses made from ewe’s milk entered into the Awards, in 2017 there were 61, an increase of +205%. In fact last year’s Supreme Champion was a cheese made from sheep’s milk - Pavé Cobble, made by White Lake Cheese, Somerset.
Prior to the Second World War, the wives of dairy farmers had historically dominated the British cheesemaking industry. In 2018, the situation is completely different. As well as well established dairies, like Cropwell Bishop and Appleby’s, there are much newer makers like Hampshire Cheeses and Berkswell. New cheesemakers are starting up annually and some of the newest  include Carrie Rimes, David Jowett and Alex James.

  • Carrie Rimes set up her cheesemaking business Cosyn Cymru in Dyffryn Ogwen at Ffarm Moelyci, near Bethesda in North Wales just over three years ago.  Having worked for many years as a grassland scientist, at the age of 53 she decided to change careers and become a cheesemaker.
  • David Jowett, of King Stone Dairy, Oxfordshire, makes the award-winning Rollright cheese. David worked as a cheesemonger for the UK’s oldest cheesemonger Paxton & Whitfield in Stratford-upon-Avon, before training to actually make cheese.
  • In fact in the UK, cheesemakers are come from all walks of life as Alex James of Alex James Presents shows. Before becoming a cheesemaker, Alex was the bassist for the internationally known indie/rock group Blur.

The British Cheese Awards will take place on Wednesday 30th May 2018 at the Royal Bath & West Show, Shepton Mallet, Somerset. The judging and the presentation of the prizes at the awards dinner will all take place on the same day.
As well as Supreme Champion, the Reserve Champion, the four Country Awards and the eight Main Category Awards, there will also be a special Supreme Champion of Champions Award.
For details on how to enter this year’s cheese awards and a full schedule cheesemakers can use the following link http://www.britishcheeseawards.com.
Sponsors for this year’s awards include the following companies: Atalanta Corp, Atlas Packaging, Aubrey Allen, Barbers, Berkshire Labels, Bord Bia, Charlton House, Coombe Castle International, Delamere Dairy, DuPont™ Danisco®, Fine Food Digest, Harvey & Brockless, Marks & Spencer, Murray’s Cheese, Paxton & Whitfield, Peter Green Chilled, Rowcliffe, Anthony & Son, Somerdale International, Specialist Cheesemakers Association, Speciality Food Magazine, Tesco, The British Organic Dairy Company, The Fine Cheese Co., West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers, Wookey Hole Cave Aged and Wyke Farms Ltd.

1. http://www.cheeseboard.co.uk/
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/684536/milkutil-statsnotice-02feb18.pdf

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