Asda has cut the retail price of its own-label cheddar cheese by 27% as part of a campaign to encourage the sales of British cheese.
The store, which buys 90% of its cheddar cheese from Dairy Crest’s Aspatria plant in Cumbria, has also hit out at competitors that do not source their own-label cheese from UK farmers. It said some supermarkets did not clearly state the country of origin on cheese that had been bought abroad but packed in the UK.
Tom Hind, NFU chief dairy adviser said he welcomed clearer labelling of cheese, but added: “It’s disappointing that a retailer wants to sell a great British product by devaluing it. I hope the price cuts are just a short-lived gimmick.”
Mild cheddar has slipped in value by about £200/t this year. Tesco, which buys much of its own-label cheese through an online Dutch auction, is believed to have paid £1850/t for predominantly Irish cheese during its latest purchasing round.
However, independent industry consultant Mike Bessey said the Irish produced about 60,000-70,000t of cheddar each year for the UK market and it would be unrealistic for this to disappear in the short term.
A Tesco spokesperson said: “Tesco sells more British Cheddar than any other retailer – over 80% of the cheddar we sell is UK sourced. The only reason we import cheese is to ensure choice, availability and affordability for our customers and in the vast majority of cases this is clearly communicated on pack.
“We don’t have a country of origin label on our Value cheese because to ensure affordable prices for those on a budget we have to have flexibility of sourcing.”