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Swiss continue to scoff more cheese: report

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The Swiss are consistently above-average cheese eaters. Photo: Switzerland Tourism
12:34 CET+01:00
Swiss people ate more cheese in 2015 than the year before, munching their way through a whopping 21.49 kilos per person, 260 grams more than in 2014.

And despite competition from imported cheeses that are often cheaper, the Swiss remain loyal to domestic cheeses, according to figures  released on Wednesday by the Swiss Farmers' Union.

Nearly 70 percent of the cheese consumed in Switzerland is Swiss-made, including famous cheese names Le Gruyère, Emmental and Raclette.

In a statement, the Swiss Farmers' Union said that cheese imports had risen by around seven percent over the past eight years.

“Nevertheless Swiss consumers really appreciate the big range of domestic cheeses and choose Swiss cheese 70 percent of the time,” it added.

Fresh cheeses including mozzarella and séré – soft white cheese – were particularly popular, with consumption up 8.52 percent on the previous year.

Perhaps surprisingly for a cheese better known as Italian, mozzarella is Switzerland's second most produced cheese, after only Le Gruyère, according to 2014 figures.

Speaking to The Local, Manuela Sonderegger from Switzerland Cheese Marketing said that for Swiss people, cheese signifies “heimat”, a Swiss-German word that loosely translates as “homeland”.

“Often when you ask somebody which cheese is their favourite it is the cheese from the region he grew up in,” she said.

“They know when they buy a cheese from Switzerland they can be sure it is a quality product.”

However the strong franc, the high price of Swiss cheese and the end of European milk quotas meant last year was a difficult one for Swiss exports, the organization said.

Though exports rose slightly overall, by 0.3 percent, exports to the European Union fell by 1.5 percent, with the three biggest names – Emmental, Le Gruyère and Appenzeller – all suffering.

“As long as the Swiss franc is as strong as it is now we have quite a price problem,” Sonderegger told The Local.

“As our products are produced here with high quality milk in small structures like village dairies, cheeses from Switzerland will always be quite expensive products.”

Last year the Swiss cheese industry had to raise its prices further, while the price of cheeses from elsewhere fell.

For example, the price of Allgäuer Emmentaler – a German product – cost just five euros while Swiss Emmental cost 15 euros, said Sonderegger.

“So it is and was quite hard to compete with these prices.”

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“We are sure that a quality product will always find the consumer, but it will be hard,” she added.

Switzerland's cheese consumption remains well above average compared to world figures.

According to 2013 figures from the International Dairy Foundation  – the most recent available – the Swiss are the seventh biggest cheese eaters in the world, with France topping the table.

Iceland, Finland, Germany, New Zealand and Estonia all ate more cheese than the Swiss.

The EU average was 17.2 kilos per head.

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