The first full year of the pandemic brought both challenges and rewards to the US cheese industry. Many artisan cheesemakers went into 2021 having made a significant pivot the year before—setting up e-commerce sites to sell directly to consumers in the wake of restaurant closures and cheese counter shut downs. Natural cheese consumption actually went up as more people cooked at home and turned to cheese as both a comfort food and a special treat. Along with the struggle to keep up with increased demand, dairy farmers and cheesemakers were not immune from the labor shortages that have plagued other US industries.
There were many bright spots. Some competitions decided to stay on hiatus for another year, while others, notably the World Cheese Awards, held in Spain in November, were joyful reunions for old friends who hadn’t seen each other for so long. Yoav Perry opened Perrystead Creamery in downtown Philadelphia. Consider Bardwell Farm returned. Marin French introduced Golden Gate, Cypress Grove launched Little Giant, and Cowgirl Creamery rolled out Inverness.
In the midst of continued uncertainty, the team at culture looks forward to 2022 with hope, and the expectation that the cheese world will stay strong, innovative, and vital. At the International Dairy Foods Association’s (IDFA) annual Dairy Forum later this month, “health and wellness will be a hot topic, as the industry continues to work to establish dairy as a healthy food,” reports dairyfoods.com. This conversation is especially needed in light of increasing insistence by the plant-based industry that dairy foods, including cheese, are unhealthy—both for us and for the environment. There is sure to be plenty to discuss on the plant-based cheese front in the coming year.
Helping us stay forward-focused is this list of cheese trends for 2022, released by Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin. We can easily get behind Upcycling Leftovers in Your Own Kitchen, Some Like it Hot, and Classic Dishes Get An Upgrade, but the trend we especially love? Cheese Will Bring People Together. Yes, indeed.