Wednesday, March 31, 2021

How U.S. pivoted cheese marketing after lockdown

Jeff Schwager, the chief executive officer for Sartori Cheese, said the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown sharply reduced sales to food service companies, but increased sales to supermarkets.


“Our retail business from the middle of March last year through the end of December was up 35 per cent,” he said.

“We had requests for 50 per cent growth during that time period, and we just didn’t have product. We couldn’t make it magically appear because we had to make it a year before or eight months before – whatever the aging requirements were.”

While the growth amount for retail was unprecedented, Sartori saw its restaurant side food business drop significantly. 

That meant they had cheese prepared for that market that could be reshaped and cut to help meet the needs of retail customers. The process of reallocation became a popular need for them last year.

“Instead of saying we’re going to get rid of one customer, we thought the right thing to do was take our good loyal customers and allocate the same percentage growth over what they had forecasted to us for the year,” he said.

“Allocation was a huge issue across the grocery store last year, simply because consumer demand grew so quickly that there was no way to meet it, and a lot of people really struggled. We did as well,” said Mike Brown of Kroger's, the largest supermarket chain in the United States.

“Dairy actually did very well. In the middle of March last year, our cheese buyer was out buying extra cheese knowing we were going to need it,” he said.