En Route at The International Cheese Awards 2018
On 24th and 25th July, we scooped up for the third year in a row, a gold award at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards. Our Head of Procurement, Martin Hambleton, headed over to Nantwich to discover what’s trending this year for dairy aficionados, and to see us pick up our best ‘Cheese product designed for the travel industry’ prize awarded for our First Class cheese service.
Do we really know our Cheddars from our Camemberts? Well, after just completing 121 years of showcasing the world’s best cheeses perhaps the most appropriate place to answer that is the International Cheese Awards, held annually at the Nantwich Show in rural Cheshire.
It was a great privilege to be invited to the International Cheese Awards this year. It’s a frenetic melee of admirers, fanatics and, for want of better term, real ‘Cheese Heads’ who between them bring the most eclectic and surreal experience to the what is traditionally a perceived forte of French heritage.
To experience it properly we need to set the scene, a rural open field, a colossal white marquee, that if you stood at one end and peered to the other end would never be in sight due the to the curvature of the earth. Then, add in a swarm of aficionados, a melange of experts in white coats (naturally with their customary clipboards), a mix of coloured hairnets, which I imagine were graded in colour by seniority. Couple this with their enduring passion for what is essentially coagulated milk and protein then you start to build up an image of what is a truly surreal and perhaps hither unknown world of global cheese and all of its accompaniments.
Who could imagine that with over 5,200 entries this year alone ranging between the wonderous best cheese for grilling, to over 45 types of Cheddar (who knew), to future champions being acknowledged in the novice cheesemakers section ending in one cheese being crowned the outright supreme champion (well done to Belton’s Farm for that one).
Of course, the awards aside there is a serious business side to this annual showcase. With over 50 individual suppliers and wholesalers, from artisan and mainstream cheese manufacturers through to the big global brands it truly was a festival of cheese and all things cheese.
I came away truly starting to believe I knew the difference between a Cheddar and a Camembert but on reflection and having witnessed the passion and expertise at the show, a person would be truly insane to make that claim.
Martin Hambleton is a well-known figure in procurement, having been active and working in both the travel & retail food industry for over 25 years. His previous experience has given him vast insight into the strategic value of products, their manufacture and a proven ability to build long-term relationships with suppliers. Martin is always keen to see new suppliers and products and passionately supports innovation in the industry.