The final of the 2006 Tesco Cheese Challenge featured 20 superb cheeses selected from more than 60 entries submitted by cheesemakers from across Great Britain.

This year’s winner – judged anonymously by 20 individuals from the dairy and farming industries – was Butlers Blue, a soft blue cheese hand-made by Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, a family-run dairy farm in Lancashire.

Now in its fourth year, the competition invites submissions from small producers who have devised a new cheese which is not currently stocked, or planned to be stocked, by any retailer with more than 20 outlets in the UK.

It therefore offers small producers an excellent route in to Tesco and an unparalleled opportunity for those wishing to rapidly expand their business.

With a 29.6% share of the cheese market, Tesco is the biggest cheese retailer in the UK.

Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses use milk produced on its two family farms as well as that from 13 local producers.

Bronwen Coward of Butlers said winning the competition would give the family business the necessary impetus to take production to the next level.

“Up to now our distribution of it has been limited, so this is a fantastic opportunity for us.

We are incredibly proud of the cheese we make here and would love as many people as possible to try it,” she added.

With the extra capacity already in place, Butlers will now begin increasing production from the current 43kg/week, ready for an in-store launch in November.

Previous winner Philip Stansfield, of the Cornish Cheese Company, said winning the competition had transformed his business.

“It’s a great way to get recognition in the cheese world,” said Mr Stansfield.

“If you’re looking for serious growth, it’s a fantastic opportunity – it just shows the power of Tesco.”

In the two years since winning the competition, Mr Stansfield reckons to have doubled the size of his business.

In addition to the sales through Tesco, the increased publicity that his business received following the award resulted in greater demand from his existing customers.

He is now looking to take the business on to the next level and move to larger premises.

andrew.watts@rbi.co.uk