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LANCASHIRE'S NOT CRUMBLING

This is exactly what Lancashire's family cheesemakers have done, and it is at the heart of why each of them is so successful.

While Singleton's Dairy is known as an exporter, Sandhams is popular for its smoked cheese; while Kirkham's makes cheese only with raw milk from its own herd, Dewlay focuses on pre-pack; while Butler's is famous for its speciality Blacksticks Blue and Leagram concentrates on organic products, Carron Lodge acts as both producer and distributor. 

John Carr, who descirbes himself as "one of the gang" at Singleton's, said that this careful product placement meant that the producers were not constantly treading on one-another's toes.  John who is actually head of sales, said: "We all have different angles but there is still some healthy competition between us which keeps us on our toes, especially in terms of quality."  This competitive streak comes to the surface during show season, when the cheesemakers jostle for gold, silver and bronze medals.  In the past year alone Singleton's has picked up about 25 awards "here, there and everywhere," according to John, including three from the recent Lancashire BIBA business awards.

For Faye Kitching at Leagram's Organic Dairy in Chipping, which produces 28 varieties of cheese, one of the keys to success is the relationship with the customers.  Although they sell their product through supermarkets such as Booths, she says that customers know that they are buying a local product and one they can trust.  She said "People are interested in where their food comes from.  After all the articles in the press about product recall, they want to be sure that they're not being conned.  "With local cheesemakers they can rest assured because they can come and watch the cheese being made.  We're open and honest.  "Our Lancashire isn't the dry, white, acidic, bland cheese you get in some supermarkets."  Faye, 30, who joined the business after a short time as a photographic stylist, feels that the rise in interest in Lancashire cheese springs from the consumer's increasing tendency to source food locally.  She said "Basically they know they are going to get good cheese if they buy from local producers."

Adrian Rhodes, owner of Carron Lodge at Inglewhite, said the attention to the quality of the locally produced cheeses was one of the big selling points.  He said: "When it comes to the competitions there is tremendous attention to detail and quality.  "For us the niche is the fact that we actually do the distribution of our own cheese, as well as that of other Lancashire producers.  "It means we have a portfolio of customers right across the country, which gives us strength and security."  Carron Lodge is another of the local producers that can boast a truck-load of awards - 20 or more in the last 12 month including the best blue-veined cheese at this years Nantwich International Cheese Awards.

In short, the local cheese industry is doing well.

John Carr from Singleton's Dairy sums it up: "These are all family businesses and they've all made and lost a bit of money over the year, but we are all pretty much hanging on and thriving.  We're a little success story."

 

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