It’s no newsflash that real, artisanal cheeses have been making a comeback in the past decade. Particularly in the U.S., where dairy fanatics consumed an astounding 39 pounds of cheese per capita in 2017, our sinful cheese habit only seems to be intensifying: artisan cheese is rapidly becoming a competitor not to be reckoned with in the industry.
As consumer concerns shift and processed cheese is being pushed to the sideline in a wave toward the all-natural and more ethical dairy trends, cheese lovers are nostalgic for the organic products produced from pasture-based farms as opposed to the corporate-dominated market of industrialized agriculture. Dairy Foods’ 2018 Cheese Outlook Study revealed that “natural cheese” accounts for 81% of current cheese production, and nearly 9 out of 10 respondents (89%) thought that all-natural, organic and/or artisanal cheeses are “in style” for 2018.
However, despite this surge in popularity, artisanal cheeses are not the only challengers in the cheese market: Dairy alternatives, like dairy-free cheeses and milks, have slowly but surely begun to win over consumers. This competition, the adapting market conditions and the shrinking sales of dairy products are having a large impact, particularly on farmers.
Here’s a quick list of four tips for how to make your brand stand out in a competitive dairy market:
1. Trend At Trade Shows
One of the best strategies for smaller, privately-owned cheese companies to grow their businesses is by attending trade shows. There, you can promote your products and services to other cheese lovers, chefs, etc. However, among a large group of companies that are selling similar products in pursuit of the same goal, it can be difficult to make your brand stick out.
One way to stand out is by doing a cheese challenge. Ask attendees to do a blind taste test to see if they can tell the difference between various types of cheeses. Can they tell the difference between a chaource and a camembert? If the attendee can guess correctly, they win a prize.
The reason why this strategy works is that trade show attendees tend to gravitate toward where other attendees gather. Give them a reason to stop and look, and spectators will likely attract other spectators.
Another way to leverage trade shows is by targeting chefs. After all, if chefs like your product, they’ll likely stock it at their respective restaurants. One way to do this is by sponsoring a cooking competition using your cheese products. Market the cooking competition prior to the event and personally invite each chef to participate. Schedule the competition during peak hours of the trade show to make sure you maximize the coverage. The winner of the competition gets a prize and social media swag to celebrate their victory.
2. Build A Community Brand
A great way to increase your brand popularity in your local community is to interact directly with your consumers. A pop-up food truck is a great way to build a loyal following. Park on a popular public street in your community, string some of your company’s banners along the side of your vehicle and encourage people passing by to try a free cheese sample.
Leverage social media to let followers know where the “cheese wagon” will be and give them the ability to invite you to their work or neighborhood if they get enough votes on Twitter. Farmers markets are another great way to target people who take food seriously. People love interacting directly with the farmers they’re buying their produce from.
3. Connect With Consumers Through Your Website
In this age of digital marketing, it’s crucial that you’re doing everything you can to build your brand online. Assuming you are already featuring a cheese blog on your website, consider partnering with a wine or meat company that shares the same values as yours.
Come up with a list of cheese pairings based on their recommendations or invite them to write a guest blog or two on your site. For new consumers, consider creating an interactive “Beginner’s Guide to Our Cheese” on your website or release a cheese sampler package as an introduction to artisanal cheeses.
4. Get Creative With Social Media
Along the same lines as online marketing, social media marketing is also a necessary strategy that all companies — big, small, young or established — should be utilizing. The potential to grow your business using these networks is endless.
One popular tactic on platforms like Instagram is to have “employee takeovers,” where someone in the company will take Instagram Stories and share content throughout the day. But why stop there? You can do a social media takeover with your brand’s strongest advocates — your cows. For customers who care about the source of their food, showcase how healthy and cared for the source of the cheeses are.
An Instagram takeover by your farm’s cows would immediately stick out while also engaging loyal customers. Another way to leverage social media is by showcasing a “cheese of the week” where you feature a new type of cheese each week and encourage your followers to share their favorite recipes (and photos) featuring that cheese.
Now, more than ever, as we’ve seen with some of our food-based clients, the cheese industry is a marketing game.