Domain Eight: Cheese Marketing/Merchandising/Selling

Cheese professionals should have the knowledge required to ‘take the product to market’. This area includes the marketing of the product by key players in the marketplace such as the cheesemaker, distributor, retailer, and educator and for each of the players the various functions and methods to market and sell cheese.


I. Marketing: The ability to create positive identity, and be recognizable to consumers in the marketplace, through appropriate promotions.

A. Advertising

  1. Radio/TV – Promotes the store/shop carrying specialty cheese
  2. Print – Pitches the shop or a particular promotion

B. Social Networking- Social Network messages are frequent and conversational keeping the identity of the brand in the front of the consumer’s mind; locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

  1. Email
  2. Facebook
  3. Twitter
  4. Foursquare
  5. LinkedIn
  6. YouTube

C. Themed Promotions (see Section IV Merchandising, below)- focused resources around moving a particular part of the selection celebrating an occasion.

D. ‘Healthy Marketing’

  1. Certifications
    1. Animal Welfare Approved
    2. Certified Humane Raised and Handled
    3. Certified Organic
    4. Kosher
    5. Validus certified responsible producer
  2. Participation & affiliation, with non-profit groups
    1. Contributions to charity events
  3. ‘Green’ marketing
  4. Sustainable business practices
    1. Food Alliance
  5. Promotion of traditional food/natural cheese
    1. Slow Food

E. Public Relations: Exposure in local, regional & national media

  1. Press releases (must be newsworthy)
  2. Developing press contacts

F. Promotional Education

  1. In-store tastings
  2. Classes
    1. Class programs often add additional costs to the promoter and thus an admission charge for the guest
    2. Class programs can also generate sales of the product(s) covered in the   class
    3. Create a loyal base of well-educated clients
    4. Cross-promotional opportunities with local celebrities/experts/visiting cheesemakers, etc.
  3. Partnerships with wineries, restaurants
    1. Consider licensing and permits for special events as well as staffing
    2. Partner businesses can be utilized as a resource for product, promotion, and labor

G. “Getting your cheese on the menu”-menuing, language for retailers, restaurants, branding your language. 

  1. Connecting with chefs requires samples/ tastings
  2. Special pricing for re-sale in full service restaurants must be calculated so retailer and restaurant gain margin.
  3. Educational sessions and materials for staff enhance the effectiveness of this kind of program
  4. Frequency and logistics of delivery must be addressed


II. Packaging: Chosen by cheese producer or distributor

A. Materials for attracting the consumer and rapid sales      

  1. Clear cellophane plastic
  2. Vacuum seal Cryovac materials
  3. Deli containers with lids for fresh cheese

B. Materials for maintaining best condition of cheese with a longer shelf life

  1. 2-ply wrapping sheets appropriate for specific cheese styles
  2. Sealable basket and cup sets for fresh cheeses

C. Proprietary Labeling choices for packaging materials

  1. Builds customer recognition and brand loyalty
    1. Artwork and logos on shipping containers
      1. Boxes (wood/cardboard/plastic)
    2. Ingredients labeling
      1. Webinar from IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association) on adequate labeling

D. Controlling shrink at Retail Point of Sale (POS)

  1. Sale of whole cheeses
    1. Proper cutting techniques & shipping boxes for inventory control
  2. Sale of pre-cut pieces
    1. Set sizes at a controlled price & proper POS Materials
  3. Sampling allowances

E. Attractive & Functional Packaging for Display Cases

  1. Reinforce brand recognition and loyalty in multiple venues
  2. Creates dialogue through retailer to the consumer
  3. Simplifies traceability of batches from producer through retail outlet


III. Determining the cheese selection

A. Size of selection

  1. Space available – share of business devoted to cheese
  2. Customer demand/customer demographic
  3. Retailer staff expertise – education, and development/growth of staff
  4. Staffing capacity to handle
  5. Credit available

B. Offering a balanced selection

  1. Region
  2. Style
  3. Seasonality
  4. Intended use of the cheese: plate vs. recipe, melted vs. room temp, alone vs. accompanied (paired)
  5. Price point

C. Location of retailer determines availability and thus selection

  1. Metropolitan
    1. High concentration of large and small distributors
    2. Direct from cheesemaker possible, though most channel business through distributors
    3. Large specialty cheese clientele
  2. Suburban
    1. Many large and fewer small distributors
    2. Significant specialty cheese clientele and increased mainstream grocery customers
  3. Rural/ Resort
    1. Limited distribution options and more significant delivery charges and minimum order amounts
    2. Wide variety of customer likes and dislikes
    3. Resort communities rely on seasonal business model
  4. Remote
    1. Direct ship from producer most important
    2. Foot traffic low and demand widely variable


IV.  Merchandising: Developing and utilizing packaging, display, promotional materials, etc. to your advantage as a ‘brand’

A. Store brand – promoting the retailer’s identity and buyer’s cheese selection

B. Distributor/professional alliance brand – promoting the products of a region or distributor, Milk/dairy marketing organizations, importers, etc.

C. Cheesemaker brand – promoting the products of a particular producer

D. Trademark

V. Displays and display cases

A. Fresh, clean, attractive, and bountiful

B. Refrigerated vs. non-refrigerated. (Please cross reference Domain Six,
Cheese Storage and Handling)

White paper on non-refrigerated storage of low moisture cheese from the Center for Dairy Research, University of Wisconsin and storage temperatures necessary to maintain food safety

C. Signage

D. Types of display cases and advantages and disadvantages

E. Ways to organize cheese

F. Procedures for setting case

G. Procedures for maintaining the case

H. Presentations, themes, and also thinking seasonally

I. Cross merchandising techniques

J. Pre-cuts vs. cut to order  

K. Cutting- Learning appropriate techniques for cutting for each style of cheese

L. Physical Merchandising of pre-cut cheese

  1. Refrigerated
    1. Re-packaged cuts
    2. Shreds
    3. Grated
    4. Grab and go trays
    5. Packages of slices or cubes
  2. Room temperature
    1. Dump displays
    2. Stacks
    3. Sampled pairings with components at hand


VI. Selling: Properly pricing a product, communicating effectively and persuasively about the product to the customer, maintaining the integrity of that product with the end goal being a transfer of money for goods, (transaction) and/or determining ‘terms’ for the payment of that product

A. Sales occur at every point in the chain: producer, distributor, retailer, chef

B. “Selling” also implies sending the customer on their way with something they didn’t already intend to buy – we sold it to them, otherwise we just “served” them what they requested

C. Customer relationship builds word of mouth which generates new and repeat sales

D. New products catch on and become established thanks to salesmanship from producer, through distributor, to retailer/ chef

E. Stories, samples, recipes, and awards sell cheese

F. Sampling helps sell cheese

G. Providing recipes and suggesting pairings sell cheese


VII. Education of retail personnel: ‘Knowing your cheese’- passion, storytelling, evoking romance to the consumer and ultimately educating consumer

A. In-house training (Partial listing)

  1. Wegman’s
  2. Whole Foods Markets
  3. Murray’s Cheese
  4. Central Market H-E-B
  5. Zingerman’s

B. Professional associations (Partial listing)

  1. American Cheese Society (ACS)
  2. National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT)
  3. International Dairy, Deli, and Bakery Association (IDDBA)

C. Independent schools (Partial listing)

  1. Cheese School of San Francisco
  2. Murray’s Cheese
  3. Artisanal Cheese Center
  4. Artisan Cheese Marketing (Toronto)
  5. Boston University

D. Internet

E. Books

F. Magazines (Partial listing)

  1. Caseus Magazine (Italian)
  2. Cheese Connoisseur
  3. Culture Magazine

G. Trade literature (Partial listing)

  1. Cheese Reporter
  2. Cheese Marketing News


Source: The Guide to West Coast Cheese, by Sasha Davies, Timber Press 2010