Food and Drink For Members

Why do the Swiss prefer to buy foreign cheese?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why do the Swiss prefer to buy foreign cheese?
Despite higher imports, the Swiss still love their cheese — though a bit less. Photo: AFP

It is a paradox in a country which is almost synonymous with the word ‘cheese’ that an increasing number of consumers opt for imported, rather than domestic, product.


Imagine a Swiss person reaching for imported chocolate in a supermarket, while the shelves are full of Switzerland-made varieties.

This seems an almost impossible scenario to fathom, especially given the Swiss consumers’ longstanding preference for their own products over imported ones.

However, this is what's happening with cheese.

Switzerland has been importing limited quantities of cheese for years, especially since the market was liberalised in 2007, allowing the country to trade with the European Union more easily.

Now, however, for the first time in recorded history of Swiss cheesemaking, the country’s cheese imports exceed the volume of exports.

READ ALSO: 15 facts you may not have known about Swiss cheese

Higher cost

Given its own, world-famous production of hundreds of types of cheeses — including Gruyère and Emmentaler —why does Switzerland import  increasing amounts of this product?

There are several reasons to explain this phenomenon.

At the root of it lies simple economics: the number of Swiss dairy farms has shrunk significantly due to the rising price of milk, which no longer covers production costs.

At the same time, prices have been rising — not only due to lower supply, but also because of inflation.

Imported cheese, on the other hand, which comes mostly from France, is cheaper for consumers.


Common sense dictates that importing milk would solve this problem. 

However, this is not as simple as it sounds.

That's because cheese here must be made using only milk from Swiss cows — otherwise,  it wouldn’t be designated as ‘Swiss’, even if manufactured locally.

This has become clear in 2021, when a dairy in eastern Switzerland wanted to import milk from Germany for their cheese.

This had caused outrage among Swiss diary farmers and the move was ultimately nixed.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also