Highland Fine Cheeses, one of Scotland’s leading artisanal cheesemakers, has carved itself a 33% bigger slice of the market in a year of extraordinary growth driven a number of factors, including expansion into wider UK markets.
The award-winning Ross-shire based specialist has lifted turnover in the year to the end of this month to close to a record £2m up from £1.5m in the previous 12 months.
A combination of the Brexit effect, which has affected availability of continental produce, and a consumer inclination, catalysed by the Covid years, to support local food producers has pushed demand to unprecedented levels. The company is now also supplying chains such as Waitrose and M&S in England.
The maker of household-name brands such as Caboc and Strathdon Blue is now actively recruiting, in what it admits is a very competitive labour market, to maintain and accelerate its growth trajectory.
Owner Rory Stone, whose parents established the company in the fifties, said: “Brexit has, without a doubt, had a big effect. There is a certain grumpiness from our European friends and imports are not flowing as freely as they once did.
“This means that supermarket buyers and major wholesalers are having to look closer to home to source products to fill the nation’s shelves. There is definitely less choice in the cheese aisles.
“The last two years have also perceptibly changed people’s thinking about where food comes from, and the conditions in which it is produced. There has been a distinct re-shoring of shopping baskets.”
Research from Deloitte has showed that 59% of UK consumers bought from local shops and services more regularly during lockdowns and another study showed that just 32% of Generation Z believe that food shopping will continue to take place in traditional supermarkets
Mr Stone also believes that domestic producers have benefited from significant upticks in the prices sought by continental makers, as they, too, battle the global problems of rising costs of raw materials, energy and labour.
Highland’s range – creamy Caboc, pungent, washed rind Minger, Gruyere-style Fat Cow, Skinny and Black Crowdie, Highland and Morangie Brie, Blue Murder, Strathdon Blue and Tain Cheddar – has won a number of national and international awards.
The company’s blue cheeses, particularly, are in huge demand at the Christmas period and, as well as servicing new markets, the company is currently engaged on building stock for festive sales.
Mr Stone also said that sales may also have been boosted by the time which became available during lockdowns to devote to processes and quality control. “We are always on the hamster wheel of improvement,” he said.