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Big cheese judges announced for UK’s only online cheese awards

· Judges include retail buyers from M&S, Booths, Morrisons along with cheese specialists Paxton & Whitfield, Rennet & Rind and Neals Yard Dairy

· Entries close on 20th March 2022

The Virtual Cheese Awards, the UK’s first and only 100% online cheese awards which celebrates Great British cheese, has announced a stellar line up of ‘big cheese’ judges for its third year. British cheesemakers only have until 20th March 2022 to get their entries in.

Supermarkets are the number one shopper destination for cheese and in a post-pandemic world, consumers are increasingly looking for new and innovative British cheese to try. Retail cheese and dairy buyers are therefore an important gatekeeper to quality and innovation so the awards are proud to partner with some of the UK’s most respected cheese buyers. They include Alan Kirby, cheese buyer at Booths, Chris Dawson, senior cheese buyer at M&S and Russell Haggata, technical category manager for cheese at Morrisons.

The Virtual Cheese Awards are unique as they have pioneered an open, honest and transparent judging process which allows cheese makers to see their entries judged up close and personal live online.

It has also announced four new Excellence Awards to celebrate the people behind the cheese; Young Cheesemaker, Cheese Hero and New Cheesemaker awards. Anyone can nominate an individual or business free of charge. There is also an award recognising Sustainability in the dairy industry which is sponsored by Wyke Farms.

Sarah de Wit, founder of Virtual Cheese Awards said: “We’re incredibly lucky that so many of the UK’s most prominent and experienced cheese experts are joining our judging panel this year. This is testament to the fantastic quality and innovation that is flourishing in our great British cheese industry. I urge cheesemakers to get their entries in asap and be part of this celebration of cheese.”

Britain has a wealth of independent, highly experienced cheesemongers and experts who are at the forefront of promoting the best of British cheese. The awards are excited to welcome Hero Hirsh, Paxton & Whitfield, Perry Wakeman, Rennet & Rind, Bronwen Percival, Neals Yard Dairy, Morgan McGlynn, Cheese of Muswell Hill, Emma Young, Cheese Explorer, Nikki Phelp, Harvey & Brockless, Ruth Holbrook, The Newt and former Paxton & Whitfield head of wholesale, Jayne Hicken Botham, Dee Dairy and Terry Hudson to the judging panel.

National radio broadcaster and local food champion, Nigel Barden will again host the live final on Friday 13th May.

The new Excellence awards will help celebrate the diversity and quality of British dairy and promote what is an exciting and thriving industry for future cheesemakers to join.

The Virtual Cheese Awards’ live final will be held on Friday 13th May 2022. Entries are open now and close on Sunday 20th March 2022.

The Virtual Cheese Awards Best of British cheese prize includes:

● Free editorial features and digital coverage in Speciality Food magazine and Great British Food magazine worth £4,000

● Opportunity to have the winning cheese showcased at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair by the VCA team worth approximately £5,000

● A Level 1 Academy of Cheese courses and a year’s subscription worth over £300

● A pair of return Eurostar tickets

For more information on the Virtual Cheese Awards log on to:

Social pages:

● Facebook - Virtual Cheese Awards

● YouTube – Virtual Cheese Awards

● Instagram - @Virtualcheeseawards

Sponsors, partners and friends of the Virtual Cheese Award 2022 are:

● Speciality Food Magazine - Headline media partner

● Great British Food Magazine – Headline media partner

● Sharpham – Event Facilitation Partner

● Charity Partner – Food in Community

● Speciality & Fine Food Fair – Event Partner and sponsor of Best Speciality Cheese

● Wyke Farm - Trophy for Sustainability

● Food & Drink Wales – Best Welsh Cheese

● Invest NI – Best Northern Irish Cheese

● Harvey & Brockless - Best Cheddar Cheese

● The Cheese Man – Best Blue Cheese

● Neals Yard Dairy - Best Artisan Cheese

● Booths – Best Territorial Cheese

● ALPMA GB Ltd – Best Stilton Cheese

● Ablebox – Best Vintage Traditional Cheese

● The Dairy House – Best Organic Hard Cheese

● JKM Foods – Best External White Mould Cheese

● Christeyns Food – Best Cheshire Cheese

● White Lake Cheese – Best Soft Blue, Best Soft Blue and Traditional Mature Cheddar

Additional supporters

● Academy of Cheese – Friend of the VCA and prize partner

● Specialist Cheesemakers Association – Charity partner

● Taste of the West – Affiliate Partner

● Good Sense Research – Judging Officiation partner

● Butlers Farmhouse Cheese – Apron Sponsor

Notes to editors

The Virtual Cheese Awards were founded in 2020 to help support and celebrate British cheesemakers who were struggling in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Co-Founder, Sarah de Wit, saw multiple challenges to the dairy industry as producers struggled to produce and sell their stock resulting in milk being poured down drains and cheese being given away for free. This focus on survival also impacted on innovation, as new cheese launches were postponed.

The awards have grown steadily in the last two years with over 300 individual entries from across the British cheese industry in the 2021 awards and thousands of people logging on to see live cheese judging and the winning cheeses announced.

The Virtual Awards team consists of founder Sarah de Wit, Vickie Rogerson marketing and PR, Kara Bowen sponsorship manager and Jeremy Bowen sponsorship manager.

2021 winners and finalists

The winners of Best of British cheese across the final seven categories were;

Best of British and Best Speciality Cheese – Feltham’s Farm for La Fresca Margarita

● Best Cheddar Cheese – Wyke Farms for Ivy’s Reserve Vintage cheddar

● Best Territorial Cheese – South Caernarfon Creameries for Double Gloucester

● Best Blue Cheese – Jones Cheese for Tysul Blue

● Best Enhanced Cheese – Butler’s Farmhouse Cheeses for Smouldering Ember

● Best Artisan Hard Cheese – Fred W Read & Sons for Lincolnshire Poacher

● Best Artisan Soft Cheese – Harvey & Brockless and Cheese Cellar for Blanche

● Best Artisan Cheese from Farms Own Herd was won by Lincolnshire Poacher

● Best Welsh cheese was won by South Caernarfon Creameries for Double Gloucester

● Best English Cheese was won by Feltham’s Farm for La Fresca Margarita

● Best Scottish Cheese was won by J & C Reade for Hebridean Blue

Recognising Excellence -

Trophy for Sustainability (sponsored by Wyke Farms) won by Isle of Mull Cheese (Brendan Reade)

Young Cheesemaker of the year (sponsored by Dairy UK) won by Ryan Gee from Hartington Creamery

Cheese Hero (sponsored by Davidstow Cheddar) won by Shepherd’s

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