Design Dinosaurs: 11: Lymeswold

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POOR Lymeswold. Its real problem wasn't being seen as a designer cheese invented by boffins in laboratories rather than dairymen in farmhouses, but that its pre-launch hype was disastrously over-successful.

The creation and quantity production by Dairy Crest of the first new English cheese for 200 years involved meticulous marketing. A Norwegian called Terry Oftedal at its Crudgington research department was briefed to produce a soft, blue cheese with a white mould rind, which looked sufficiently Continental to challenge Brie and Camembert, but wasn't smelly, runny or strong- tasting. After two years of experimenting, he came up with just that - though the production version was slightly drier and more crumbly than his original formula.

A good name was as important as an innocuous recipe. 'Wymeswold', the name of the small Leicestershire creamery which had been suggested as a possible production site, came out best in research. But it couldn't be protected as a trademark unless the cheese was actually made there, so it was modified to 'Lymeswold'.

After heavy promotion and leaked tales of rationed supplies fuelling demand, by the launch day, 27 September 1982, the idea of a new English cheese had caught the public imagination. Despite ritual savaging by foodies, cheesemakers and Private Eye, demand went through the roof. Much of the scheduled pounds 2m advertising campaign had to be cancelled to allow supply to catch up.

A fateful decision was taken: to gear up production immediately, from 600 to 4,000 tons annually. While Oftedal went on to create Lymeswold variations, sales settled, then dwindled. As Lymeswold had to be eaten young (it couldn't be stored) a high turn-over was crucial. At the same time, fierce competition came from other new hybrid cheeses, in particular the creamy Bavarian bries such as Cambozola (the brand the original recipe most resembled). Production ceased in April 1992. English farmhouse bries can still be bought (Somerset for example), but none, for the moment, under the Lymeswold brandname.