New Zealanders are buying better quality cheeses as they explore different speciality cheese including locally made takes on classics such as Feta, Halloumi and Parmesan.

Speciality cheese is the big winner with Nielsen Supermarket Sales MAT to 14 July 2019, showing specialty cheese has grown by 7.3% in value and volume compared to the corresponding time last year. The same data shows the total value of sales of cheese in New Zealand are up by 2.9% compared with the same time the previous year, with a value growth of 6.3% versus one year ago.

The figures were released by the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association (NZSCA). Each October the association hosts NZ Cheese Month to celebrate the hard work and dedication of this country’s cheesemakers.

NZSCA Chair, Neil Willman, says the sales figures are clear proof that New Zealanders are embracing the local cheese industry and getting more adventurous in their tastes as they do so.

“It’s a reflection of the change to a more international style of eating. New Zealanders are wanting to explore different tastes and flavours and our cheesemakers are offering a broader range of cheeses to meet this demand.

“As well as making the traditional cheddar we’ve grown up loving, NZSCA members are making speciality cheeses which haven’t been seen before in New Zealand such as; Mexican cheeses like Cajeta[1] and Oaxaca[2], or Italian favourites such as Mozzarella, Ricotta and Mascarpone and interestingly other Italian styles which are less familiar in New Zealand such as; Scamorza[3], Stracciatella[4] and Stracchino[5].“

Neil says it’s wonderful to see the growth in sales of New Zealand-made cheese – and this October he’s encouraging Kiwis to put even more New Zealand-made cheese on their plates! In a first for Cheese Month, the NZSCA is working with Barker’s of Geraldine to find Kiwis’ favourite NZ Cheese Company this October.

Cheese lovers’ are being encouraged to vote for their favourite NZ Cheese Company. The NZ Cheese Company with the most votes at the end of NZ Cheese Month will be named Barker’s NZ Cheese Month Favourite Cheese Company.  Voting will be promoted via CheeseloversNZ Facebook and Barker’s of Geraldine social media.

New Zealand’s Top Cheese Trends

NZSCA asked experts on New Zealand-made cheese what the hottest trends in New Zealand cheese are. Here are their insights:

Restaurant owner and executive chef of Palate Restaurant  (Hamilton), Mat Mclean

Cheese as the vegetarian ‘super food’

“Cheese is always the hero of our vegetarian dishes and the huge growth in demand for vegetarian cuisine is seeing us use more and more cheese. We select cheese by the season and in the spring and summer our dishes are all about fresh cheeses like Mozarella and Ricotta. Whereas in the cooler seasons we favour aged hard cheeses. In the 15 years I have been back in New Zealand I’ve been excited to see the huge lift in quality of New Zealand specialty cheese. Cheese is a ‘personal favourite love’ for me to cook and to eat.”

Cheese Events and Tastings Across New Zealand

As happens every October, cheesemakers are hosting tastings across New Zealand. Highlights are:

Ferment Fest, Hamilton, Saturday 28 September 2019, 11:00am – 5:00pm

NZ Cheese Month gets off to an early start in Hamilton on Saturday 28 September, when Sky City hosts Ferment Fest, Waikato’s Artisan Beer, Cheese and Fermented Food Festival. Waikato is home to several award-winning cheesemakers and of late many exciting craft brewers, Ferment Fest is celebration cheesemaking, brewing and makers of fermented foods offering samples, demonstrations, live music and more. Admission is free.

Main Course Cookery School Cooking with Cheese, Thursday 10 October 2019, 6pm

Join Auckland’s leading cookery school to learn how to incorporate some of the country’s favourite cheeses into your cookery. Cost  $99, for bookings

Main Course Cookery School Cheesemaking Class, Saturday 19 October 2019, 10am – 1pm

This is a specialist workshop to learn to make fresh Mediterranean style cheeses. You will prepare three cheese products and then prepare and eat a meal using the cheeses. There will be cheese to take away, so please bring a couple of containers to carry it away. The class includes a Mad Millie Italian Cheese kit and a light lunch of the cheese made on the day. Cost  $99, for bookings

To keep up to date with other cheese tasting and experiences during NZ Cheese Month check out CheeseloversNZ Facebook page.

[1] Caramelised goat’s milk caramel with a floral hint of spice.

[2] Mexican-style string cheese, made from ribbons of fresh buffalo milk cheese wound into balls by hand.

[3] Scamorza Cheese: Scamorza is made in the same way as mozzarella but is a drier, firmer cheese. Scamorza is shaped in a ball or pear and available in plain and smoked varieties. It melts well and is less watery than fresh mozzarella.

[4] Stracciatella means “torn apart” in Italian. As cheese it refers either to thin strands of mozzarella soaked in fresh cream or fresh cream thickened with thin strands of mozzarella.

[5] Stracchino – a creamy, spreadable soft, white cheese. It has fresh and pleasantly sour flavour with notes of fresh milk. Stracchino has a very short ageing period.


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