For Comté Cheese Association, It’s All About Staying Fresh
As Comté cheese finds its footing in the U.S., the group representing makers and sellers of the French product on this side of the Atlantic is implementing a strategy to better market it to American consumers.
“Aged to perfection” is a phrase used to describe its product, but the Comté Cheese Association (CCA)—the U.S. arm of the Comite Interprofessionnel du Gruyere de Comté, which represents everyone who has a hand in making and selling this particular French cheese—is launching some fresh initiatives to attract American shoppers at their local markets.
About the cheese: Comté is a raw cow’s milk cheese in the gruyere family. Only cheese made using specific methods in the Jura Mountain region of France can be called Comté.
According to CCA, Comté features an impressive array of diverse flavors and aromas. To get an idea of the product’s range, take a look at the Comté Wheel of Aromas [PDF], which CCA updated earlier this week.
“The Comté Wheel of Aromas is a diagram that showcases the 83 most common terms or descriptors that correspond to the flavors and aromas found in Comté—that’s not to say there aren’t more flavors out there,” said Nicki Sizemore, a representative of the association in the U.S. “Comté is a special cheese in that the variety of aromas and flavors are determined by several factors, such as where the cheese was produced, the season in which it was produced, the specific know-how of the cheese-maker and the cellar-master who ages the cheese, and the time it spends aging.”
And all of that is detailed in the aroma wheel.
CCA updates the tool regularly to fix outdated terms and clear up confusion caused by translation, Sizemore said. But the latest changes reflect a recent shift in the organization’s strategy to become more consumer-focused.
“The wheel is a really important tool for us, but we have a lot of other really important tools that we use as well,” said Sizemore. “We have a brochure; we’ve started developing new recipes every year using Comté; we host a scholarship program for up-and-coming cheese mongers. So it’s not only trade relations, but also direct consumer outreach as well.”
The group also recently launched a new website with features like videos, a recipes blog, and a newsletter, all aimed at making the site more consumer-friendly.
“Comté is not a static cheese, and, as far as our brochures, our reading materials, our recipes, etc., we want to provide the most precise and the most relevant information for different consumers’ tastes as well as the cheese makers and sellers,” Sizemore said. “Comté has grown in the U.S. and is now kind of at a place where consumers are starting to recognize the cheese by name, so we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to serve not only our members, but the people who have an interest in the product.”