For the fourth consecutive year, the best national and international cheeses have been presented at the European Cheese Fair. This event, organized by the Commonwealth of the North of Gran Canariahas been deployed for the first time with a format entirely virtual due to the pandemic.
More than a hundred varieties of cheese and twenty cheese factories from the peninsula, the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands and other countries such as Italy or Portugal gathered at this virtual fair, which took place from April 22 to 25. Fresh, cured and semi-cured cheeses made from goat’s milk, cow’s milk or flower and half-flower cheeses, in addition to the well-known cheeses from Cabrales (Asturias), the peluds from Ripollès (Catalonia), Idiazábal (Basque Country) or Italian mozzarella and burrata have been some of the protagonists of the exhibition.
The event has been surrounded by the difficulties of SMEs with digitalization, but the most important challenge has been to sell cheeses without trying their flavor: «The main attraction of the fairs is to taste the different types of cheeses, smell them and the Direct dealings with the cheesemaker. None of that has been present in this edition,” says Alejandro Peñafiel, manager of the Commonwealth of the North of Gran Canaria and organizer of the fair. Even so, the challenges have not been an impediment to the success of this commercial conclave, in which more than 1,000 kilos of cheese have been sold.
This cheese has achieved 10% of the event’s total sales. “It has not returned to normal, but the crisis no longer has as much influence on sales.”
Among the extensive catalog could not miss one of the most famous cheeses of Extremadura: Torta del Casar. This product, exhibited through the Doña Francisca Cheese Factory, has achieved 10% of the fair’s total sales, which has made it the second best-selling cheese on the peninsula in this virtual contest.
Extremadura’s star product has managed to beat sales expectations. From the Protected Designation of Origin They point out that the edition has been “quite successful.” “It is a way to not lose contact with customers and obtain presence in the market even in a pandemic,” he adds. Angel Pacheco Conejeropresident of the PDO Torta del Casar.
During the last year, the agri-food trade has suffered the effects of the health crisis. According to the DOP, the cheese sector began the pandemic with a significant drop in sales as a result of the closure of the horeca (hospitality, restaurant and catering) channel. Although Pacheco points out that the Christmas campaign was key to starting the recovery. “It has not yet returned to normal, but the pandemic crisis no longer has such an influence on sales,” he emphasizes.
In the absence of fairs, initiatives with establishments and hotels. The DOP has reached agreements with hospitality businesses to work along the same lines of promotion and dissemination of Torta del Casar. “Without going any further this last weekend we celebrated the Cheese Fair at the Casa del Sol gastronomic complex in Cáceres,” says Pacheco. Even so, the DOP hopes that fairs such as Gourmets or Alimentaria will be held this year.
To try to alleviate the ravages of the pandemic, event organizers have looked for alternatives and are trying to promote something that until now was the pending issue: online commerce. This fourth edition of the European Cheese Fair has paved the way for the digitalization of the sector: “Companies have taken on the challenge and in a matter of months they have seen how their sales have increased,” says Peñafiel.
For the manager of the community, the key to the success achieved has been in the generational change: «Many cheese factories have passed from parents to children and for them ‘online’ purchasing is in their daily life, which has caused them to take on that challenge. as something normal. However, there is still much to do and he insists that cheese factories have to do their part to improve aspects such as the design and presentation of their products to penetrate digital formats.
The organization recognizes that this conclave has required a significant effort, but they also take away great lessons and learnings that they intend to put in value for the next European Cheese Fair.