Although the cheese industry has seen dark days when Britain was in danger of losing all but a small handful of its historic cheeses by the mid-20th century, it is now going from strength to strength.

Currently, British cheese consumption stands 600,000 tons per year, an average of 27.4g per person, per day, and is bought by 98% of British households.

British Cheese

Historically, British made cheese has been seen with condescension overseas but there is now a growing appreciation.

The increase in the number of British cheeses awarded PDO and PDI status has certainly had an impact on the world’s perception of British cheese. For many years, the UK was associated primarily with Cheddar and Stilton, and many varieties with hundreds of years of history were forgotten. Historic cattle breeds balanced on a precipice of extinction and in the 1980s there was the thread of a complete ban on unpastorised cheese.

Britain is now home to over 700 artisan cheesemakers, encompassing organic, unpastorised and even bio-dynamic varieties; and predominantly making their products from cows, sheep and goats’ milk, although mares’ milk has recently featured too.

Cheese is fashionable once again now and consumers are seeking out new British cheese varieties, as well as supporting the reestablishment of territorial classics and many, once niche varieties, have become familiar household names available at even the smallest local supermarkets.

British cheeses are now known throughout the globe. They are regarded as status symbols in Japan and US and feature on the cheeseboards of some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants; there are even skilled British cheesemakers teaching the people of Borneo to make Cheddar style cheese with their excess milk.

Across the industry there is also a great infectious enthusiasm amongst the cheesemakers, whether novices to the industry, diversifying from the unprofitable agricultural businesses or just continuing a family’s long cheese-making tradition. With the popularity of farmer’s markets, the extraordinary influence of social media and with online sales allowing small producers to ship nationally, British cheese has a very promising future.

The cheeses of Britain essentially fall into two categories: territorial and non-territorial.

Just Jane Vintage CheddarThe territorial cheeses are those with familiar names, sometimes with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status; these include Single Gloucester, West Country Cheddar, Dorset Blue, Exmoor Blue, Lancashire and, of course, Stilton. Britain’s favourite cheese is, without question, Cheddar.Stilton Cheese

A growing market in the UK, and often associated with the new generation of cheesemakers, is the non-territorial and speciality cheeses, those based on European or farmhouse methods, and those with additional ingredients. Exports of these cheeses were up by 18% in the January to June 2018 period.

In addition to that, there is a very clear divide within the UK cheese industry between artisan cheese and the large creameries.

Here at Hay Hampers, we love cheese so we have sought out the very best of cheeses to include in our expertly created gourmet hampers and Chritstmas hampers gifts.