Highland Fine Cheeses, maker of iconic brands such as Caboc and Strathdon Blue, is celebrating its two gold, one silver, and two bronze successes at two highly regarded award competitions, the first at the 2022 International Cheese and Dairy Awards (ICDA) held at the Staffordshire County Showgrounds in August, another at this month’s Global Cheese Awards (GCA) in the Somerset town of Frome.
Judges at the 125-year-old former event, which attracts around 5,500 entries and 40,000 visitors, decided that the company’s Blue Murder, a bold, strongly flavoured cheese made with cows’ milk from the Highlands, was worthy of a ‘gold” award.
Another Highland Fine Cheeses product, Fat Cow, a Gruyere-style semi hard, washed rind cheese with a strong meaty aroma, delicate sweet flavour, and smooth texture, was deemed worthy of a ‘bronze’ award, as well as winning the same accolade in the Best Scottish Cheese category.
At the latter event, held annually in Somerset since 1861, Fat Cow topped the rind washed hard cheese category with a “gold” accolade, while Blue Murder won the “silver” award.
Owner Rory Stone, whose parents established the near-£2 million turnover company in the 1950s, said: “The ICDA and the GCA are amongst the world’s biggest platforms to champion world class cheese and dairy products, and are watched closely by retailers and food service companies all over the world, so it is a huge honour to be awarded these accolades.
“We are, I think rightly, proud of Blue Murder which we have been developing over the past few years, and it is a huge tribute to our team here at Tain in Ross-shire, that it has appealed to the palates of two highly sophisticated judging panels.
“To win awards for our Fat Cow cheese, is also a fine tribute to all the hard work that goes into its production at our farm-based factory.”
The awards follow a series of major steps forward for the 14-strong business. From earlier this summer, its Morangie Brie, named after the Glen of Tranquillity, has been promoted by M&S at its outlets across London.
In addition, the company’s recently re-affirmed relationship with Kent-based dairy product giant, Rowcliffe, the UK’s leading importer and distributor of quality cheese and fine food, has led to Rory’s cheeses featuring in Waitrose selection boxes sold from its deli counters across the UK as part of the chain’s lockdown-inspired support for artisanal cheesemakers.
Rowcliffe is now among Highland’s top five customers, taking 10 per cent of its output. Other major buyers include Co-op, Aldi, Lidl, Crest, Clark Speciality Foods, Braehead Foods and Williamson Food Service.
Other products in the Highland Fine Cheeses range – creamy Caboc, pungent, washed rind Minger, Skinny and Black Crowdie, Highland and Morangie Brie, Strathdon Blue and Tain Cheddar – have also won a number of national and international awards.
Until the turn of the century Highland Fine Cheeses focused on distinctive Scottish cheeses such as Caboc and Crowdie for the domestic Scottish market. It now specialises in blue, brie and washed rind cheeses, which make up 90 per cent of its output.
Rory added: “Despite challenges in the form of soaring raw materials – milk prices have gone up by 60% – as well as energy and labour costs, we are now very well positioned to flourish in a greatly expanded territory.”
Highland Fine Cheeses is now actively recruiting to sustain growth.
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