Virtual Cheese Awards urge public to eat British produce in ‘time of great need’

An online awards ceremony will highlight the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the cheese industry, as the public are urged to eat more British produce during a “time of great need”.

Food and drink broadcaster Nigel Barden will host the inaugural Virtual Cheese Awards on July 18, which has been launched in response to the challenges faced by cheese producers across the country.

He said it is “important” that people eat British cheese regularly to “keep the community going”, and prevent producers from going under during the Covid-19 crisis.

Food and drink broadcaster Nigel Barden, who will host the inaugural Virtual Cheese Awards on 18 July
Food and drink broadcaster Nigel Barden will host the inaugural Virtual Cheese Awards on July 18 (Nigel Barden/PA)

The pandemic has taken its toll on cheese-makers across the country, with many struggling to sell their produce.

The not-for-profit event, which aims to “demystify and celebrate” the UK’s industry will see 300 cheeses compete for the title of Best British Cheese 2020, with panels and tips on cooking also on offer.

The Virtual Cheese Awards was set up by two veterans of the cheese industry, Nigel Pooley and Sarah de Wit, after the annual awards were postponed due to the coronavirus crisis.

Ms de Wit, co-founder of the Virtual Cheese Awards, said: “We are lucky to have so many delicious and exciting cheeses in Britain but some of their stories are hidden in myth and intrigue.

“We want to demystify cheese, tell its story and celebrate it in all its glory.

“The inaugural Virtual Cheese Awards have been created to power up British cheese in a time of great need, and we hope people get involved and join us on the day.”

Thank you all so much for tuning in. Go out and buy as much British Cheese as you can, and don't forget there are another 2 days of the #BritishCheeseWeekender – more to come from the country's best cheesmongers and experts. The recording will be available online shortly I hope! pic.twitter.com/clBjjqQcMl

— Nigel Barden (@NigelBarden) May 8, 2020

Mr Barden told the PA news agency: “I’ve been involved with lots of cheese awards over the years but not a virtual one.

“It’s really important, and it’s a great way of supporting the industry, but also it’s a really tasty way of doing it.

“If we get used to eating British cheeses on a regular basis, I do think that’s so important.”

Mr Barden said the event aims to let people know they can buy direct from producers or cheesemongers, encouraging them to “keep our Great British cheese community going”.

He added: “The technology of it all is terrifying but, actually, if we get it right, that will be really special.”

– To find out more about the event, visit www.virtualcheeseawards.com.

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