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2007 Best Merchandising Ideas: Blue-Veined Cheeses.

Increasingly, the trend in American dining has been toward bigger, bolder flavors, from salsa to Thai food. This escalation in our collective taste buds has extended also to the deli, and particularly to cheese. It is no great surprise then that the demand for blue cheese has been growing. Indeed, the category of blue cheese is one of the most exciting and fastest-growing within the world of cheese. Fortunately, there is also a range of styles, textures and level of intensity in blue cheese today -- from creamy and mild to crumbly and assertive -- to suit every palate. Like so many of the world's great foods, blue cheese was originally the result of an accident that no doubt occurred thousands of years ago when someone left their fresh curds with some bread for a period of time, returning to find a curious blue mold forming on the cheese. In what probably came down to the choice between a moldy lunch and no lunch, the cheese was tested and found to be not only edible but quite delicious. Some modern cheesemakers, however, use alternate sources to produce the mold, a great benefit for those who are allergic to gluten. Blue cheese goes well beyond being just a snacking cheese; it is one of the most versatile cheeses in the kitchen. Once your customers realize how useful and delicious it is, they'll be coming back for more.

Blues Festival PromotionThere are still those consumers who are a little bit afraid of blue cheese, especially those that have only encountered extremely strong versions. Try holding a promotion that will help introduce your customers to the range of blue cheese styles. Put up signage that states you're having your own "Blues Festival" in the cheese department. Use images and recordings of a broad range of blues recording artists to symbolize how different blue cheeses can be. Position photographs of singers like Ella Fitzgerald or Billie Holiday with the sweet, creamy blues. Put Dinah Washington next to the slightly more assertive blue cheeses, and maybe someone like Robert Johnson for the strong, assertive versions. Keep the music flowing throughout the promotion, and make it fun and whimsical. Also, have plenty of printouts on hand to distribute describing the various styles of blue cheese along with recipes and serving suggestions.

DisplayOne of the great things about promoting blue cheese is how versatile it is. Emphasize its versatility by including it in displays around the store. For example, display an assortment of blue cheese in the fresh meat case alongside pre-formed hamburger patties. Many people don't think to use blue cheese in a burger, but usually they love it when they do. Also, position cups of crumbled blue cheese in the produce case next to the salad greens. Use detailed signage to explain that not only is blue cheese delicious simply crumbled over a salad, it also makes a wonderful salad dressing when combined with a bit of yogurt, olive oil, salt and pepper, and some fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Blue cheese is also great in sauces and for stuffing into pasta or meat. Since it wouldn't be practical to display blue cheese in the pasta aisle, use signage instead to make the connection. In fact, anywhere in the store where refrigeration isn't possible, use strategically placed signs and product labels instead.

Blue Plate Special DemoYou've heard of "Blue Plate Specials," but maybe not in connection with blue cheese. Consider having a series of cooking demos centered around the delicious and versatile blue cheeses in your case. Offer recipes for soups, sauces, dressings, stuffings, entrees and more. The more equipped your cooking/teaching facility is, the more elaborate the dishes you can demonstrate. You can offer many of these Blue Plate Specials in the prepared foods case too. Just make sure to carry a large assortment of blue cheeses, from mild to assertive, to show off the cheese's range and to ensure that your customers will enjoy a wide selection of tastes. Also give suggestions for serving blue cheese as well as cooking with it. It pairs well with fresh fruit and nuts, blends particularly well with sweeter flavors such as honey, sugared fruits, and sweet dessert wines such as port, Madeira, and sweet sherry. Be sure and have these ingredients on hand for cross-merchandising purposes. Give Web site information for blue cheese companies, cooking sites and general cheese sites for further study.

On the Web Bringing Home the Blues Handout
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Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Date:Aug 1, 2007
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