One possible development in the pipeline for the sector is a three-country application, along with the Netherlands and Germany, to gain EU funding to promote artisan cheeses.
If successful, the three applicants would conduct similar consumer promotions in their three markets over a nine-month period.
The promotions would follow a shared conceptual model.
“A lot of fingers are crossed hoping for a positive reply on that application,” said Eimear O’Donnell, sector manager for consumer and dairy with Bord Bia.
“We are making that application on behalf of Cáis, the Irish association of farmhouse cheesemakers.
“These cheesemakers have been working together on group marketing activities, such as their group tastings at this year’s Bloom event, getting their craft cheeses to people who are really enjoying the taste. That EU funding would be a real lift for the sector.”
Ms O’Donnell says the 43% sales boost enjoyed by Irish farmhouse cheeses in the year to Jul 2012 can be explained partly by the sector’s own drive to promote itself.
This drive has seen the produce enjoy an increasingly visible presence in stores such as Dunnes, SuperValu, Tesco and an array of discount stores. In-store promotions byCáis members’s promotions have proven very successful with consumers.
The sector has continued to show growth since last summer.
“Farmhouse cheese has made great headway into mainstream consumer sales,” added Eimear O’Donnell.
“Sales were very strong in the build-up to Christmas. Domestic sales are going well, but so too are export sales.
“Against a backdrop of on-going austerity, the domestic market for Irish farmhouse cheese continues to show solid growth.
“While the Irish market is hugely important, exports will be fundamental to securing significant growth for Irish farmhouse and speciality cheese producers going forward.”
The Irish Farmhouse Cheese market is valuedat more than €4mannually.
Growth on the Irish market is being driven by an increase in the number of households purchasing farmhouse cheese, along with an increase in purchase frequency, according to Kantar Worldpanel.
Seasonality is an important factor in farmhouse cheese sales, with sales peaking over the Christmas period.
Segments showing growth include cheeseboards (+15% year on year), soft cheeses (+5%), and brie (+2%).
Building on the success of the domestic market, and in response to increased milk supplies in the absence of milk quotas post 2015, Bord Bia is developing its export strategy for this artisan sector.
This strategy will be phased, focussing on an assessment of industry capability followed by a market analysis to identify growth opportunities in the UK and US markets, with a target completion date of May 2013, concluded Ms O’Donnell.