The date 27 September 1982. The launch of a new British cheese - the first for 200 years. Sir Stephen Roberts, then head of the Milk Marketing Board, calls it the one to rescue the British dairy industry. It has a soft blue texture but a white mould rind: all the advantages of Brie with none of the downside - smelliness, runniness, strong flavour (and foreign). Plus a name, Lymeswold, to capture the essence of Englishness.
Except it was made up by a group of Dairy Crest ad executives seeking to conjure up vanished "old wolds" where cows grazed, and the landscape was "gold"-en, "old", and, er, made of "limestone".
The reaction "Horrible." The Daily Mail is unequivocal. Experts, foodies, cheesemakers, Private Eye all agree.
But It's a great success with the public. Dairy Crest has to cancel a planned pounds 2m ad budget merely to let supply catch up with demand. Matthew Bond of The Times deems it the triumph of marketing over maturation rates ("we were eating cheese that hadn't reached adolescence, let alone maturity"). Production is increased: from an annual 600 tonnes to 4,000 tons.
However Sales began to dwindle. A constant high turnover is deemed essential because the cheese can't be stored. "The most successful product launch since the motor car," as marketing men have it, comes to earth with a soft (textured) bump. In April 1992, it's pulled.
Next up Truckledown is launched in July 1993. Then Churnton in February 1995, with a pounds 3m budget, Anneka Rice, and the ability, unlike Lymeswold, to be grated, melted, cooked with other foods.
Now Farmhouse cheeses - the genuine article - are prospering, making up 1/20th of the pounds 1.5bn annual UK cheese market. These cheeses, Humphrey Errington's Lanark Blue, for example, have a distinctive flavour and character gleaned from the particular dairy and region where they're made. By complete contrast with Lymeswold, in fact.
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