Quicke’s share the process of their slow-matured cheddar
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Produced and packed on the family-owned cheesemaker’s 450-year-old south Devon farm, the parcels, from £21, feature wedges of Quicke’s handmade Cheddars popping with flavours such as oak-smoked and hedgerow elderflower along with tasting notes. Pots of locally produced fruit condiments from Hillside Foods and sourdough crackers complement the feast.
Digital expansion direct to consumers spurred by pandemic restrictions saw the business’s online sales rocket from £27,000 to £190,000 and helped combat other trade downturns.
Now Quicke’s, which sells to Morrisons and Tesco as well as over 1,000 independent shops, is on course for five percent growth and a £2.2m turnover in 2023 as new foodie converts come on board, deliveries resume to restaurants, events and the travel sector and worldwide exports pick up.
Quicke’s Letterbox collection is converting new foodie fans (Image: Quicke’s)
“Online has been amazing enabling us to supply customers as well as create jobs,” says managing director Mary Quicke who now has a team of 34 on site meeting the increased demand.
“We know innovation and resilience are the ways to respond when times get tough,” she explains.
“We found a lot of customers during lockdown, particular single households and at Christmas, asking if we had smaller sized cheese boxes and wedges. Our retail product innovation, the Letterbox Cheese, gives more people the chance to sample our range.
“Our Cheddar smoked with wood from local trees is our most popular flavour and we also now have ewes’ milk, mixed milk and locally sourced goat’s milk cheese. Last year we launched AlpenCheddar, a collaboration with Bavarian cheesemaker Hofkäserei Kraus.
“We sell for value and flavour and have maintained the traditional cloth-bound handmade cheese rather than moving to square, machine-made cheese matured in plastic.”
Quicke’s growing range of artisan cheeses (Image: Quicke’s)
Behind each one of Quicke’s truckles, the barrel-shape associated with Cheddar production, lies a wealth of painstaking skill.
The first stars in Quicke’s firmament are its 600 specially cross-bred cows that graze peacefully on the 1,350 acre farm’s lush pastures for most of the year.
Muslin cloth binding affects moisture levels increasing flavour depth and complexity and just as crucial is the maturing process, known as the art of the affineur, where cheeses are turned, tweaked and graded as they ripen in Quicke’s cool store rooms.
This winter Quicke’s collection of 14 Cheddars will see a newcomer join the fold with Mary’s Reserve, aged at lower temperatures for longer and available from cheese counters.
The renaissance of British cheese by artisan cheesemakers in the UK over recent decades has turned it into a highly collaborative, professional sector, producing foods regarded as among the finest anywhere.
Mary Quicke MBE and her glorious girls (Image: Quicke’s)
Mary and Quicke’s work supporting the development of bodies such as the Academy of Cheese and The Guild of Fine Food’s World Cheese Awards have played a central role and benefitted from the strength the network has provided.
Her initiatives and industry profile also highlight women’s increasing contribution again in a sector where they were once the leading producers before mechanisation edged out craft production and changed the gender balance.
Now Quicke’s investment plans include projects such soil improvement and recycling methane emissions to power the farm and Mary also has a big cheer for the company’s bank NatWest and the backing provided by its Exeter branch.
“The understanding they have shown has been invaluable,” she says, adding: “Our focus on flavour, flavour, flavour has paid off”.