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What's New in Specialty Cheeses

Elevated offerings of this type in the deli department can help attract shoppers in search of premium dairy products
Specialty Cheese
Belle Chevre's latest specialty item, Greek Kiss, comes wrapped in brined grape leaves to impart subtle notes of lemon and sea salt to the tangy goat cheese.

Grocers can lure customers to the in-store deli by offering an enticing selection of premium cheeses. According to research released in March by Chicago-based Circana and 210 Analytics, in San Antonio, specialty cheese remains an area of strength in the deli, whereas pre-sliced and service cheese declined in February. The market researchers reported specialty cheese segment dollar sales of $6.2 billion for the latest 52 weeks ending Feb. 25, up 2.8% from the year-ago period, while pounds purchased were up 1.4% from last year.

Recently released products in this space include Belle Chevre’s Greek Kiss, described by the Elkmont, Ala.-based company as “an exquisite 4-ounce fresh chèvre disc artfully enveloped in tender, brined grape leaves, infusing the tangy goat cheese with subtle notes of lemon and sea salt. Upon unveiling, the creamy-colored goat cheese beautifully contrasts with the muted-green grape leaf, creating an eye-catching addition to any cheese board. Each package is vacuum sealed to ensure optimal freshness, featuring a captivating label that artfully depicts an embrace reminiscent of Greek sculpture.” The product was sampled at the Winter Fancy Food Show this past January in Las Vegas.

[RELATED: It's Time to Reinvent Bakery and Deli Departments]

Also at the Winter Fancy Food show were selections from Northern California brands Laura Chenel and Marin French Cheese Co.
“Our latest creation, Pear, Sauvignon and Herb, is a moment of pure excitement for us,” said Durae Hardy, brand manager at Sonoma, Calif.-based Laura Chenel, in January. “This exceptional goat cheese encapsulates the unwavering commitment of our cheesemaking team’s ability to infuse genuine craftsmanship into a delightful, innovative flavor. Beyond being quite delicious, this log is not just a cheese, but an experience — a journey through flavors that are inspired by the beautiful place we call home.” Available in stores this spring, the Wine Country-inspired product offers 4 ounces of fresh, creamy cheese complemented with sweet and earthy ripe pears and the aroma of a bright Sauvignon Blanc, and then finished with a burst of fresh rosemary.

For its part, Marin introduced Petite Garlic & Pepper, the latest addition to the brand’s lineup of Petite Classic 4-ounce brie-style cheeses, at the show. The offering is a rich and buttery triple crème brie enhanced with garlic and cracked pepper for an aromatic and savory taste of decadence. The company suggests folding it into baked or scalloped potatoes, or serving it as part of a grazing board.

According to Bonnie Kaufman, associate brand manager at Petaluma, Calif.-based Marin, earlier this year: “This cheese was inspired by the French Gaperon, a fresh cheese that’s traditionally made in the Auvergne region [of France]. We couldn’t think of a better way to add to our line than crafting a Petite that’s inspired by a beloved French cheese, but tweaked to fit our production process and infused with a distinct Northern California vibe.”

Among imported cheeses, Truly Grass Fed, a premium brand of sustainably produced dairy products from Ireland, showcased its Natural Maker’s Blend Cheddar Cheese at Natural Products Expo West, in Anaheim, Calif., last month. Featuring notes of parmesan, the aged cheddar cheese offers the classic flavors typical of an Irish cheddar.

Noted Conor O’Donovan, general manager at Kilkenny-based Truly Grass Fed, in March, “We’re … excited to continue growing our dairy portfolio with the Maker’s Blend — an ideal creamy, buttery pairing for full-bodied wines, charcuterie boards or snacking.”

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