Learn all (or almost all) about the profession of dairy-cheese shopkeeper in France with Claude Maret (president of the French Federation of Cheesemakers) and David Bazergue (general delegate).
Portrait of Claude Bazergues.

David BAZERGUE

The profession of dairy-cheese shopkeeper is doing well. It's a profession that has evolved significantly in recent years and continues to evolve constantly to adapt to consumer demand: for convenient products, with taste, meaning, and that carry the values of our agriculture, our heritage.

Claude MARET

In 15 years, we've gone from 1,800 to 4,400 businesses! Two-thirds of the businesses did not exist 10 years ago. Now, the trend is somewhat toward a decrease in new openings because there's saturation in some places. However, there's an increase in the takeover of shops, with prices that are much more reasonable than they were 15 or 20 years ago. The profession also benefits from the rise of career changes, coming from people who generally had very good positions but chose to become dairy-cheese shopkeepers to give meaning to their lives.
Portrait of Claude Maret.
What does a consumer seek at a dairy-cheese shop that they can't find elsewhere?

CM: First, advice and discussion. We've moved from being sellers to seller-advisors. Before, people came to us and asked for a piece of brie. Now, they say, "tonight we are four, what do you recommend?". The advice concerns not just the product itself but also its history, geography, and how it was made. On animal welfare, on social issues, we have also implemented charters that reassure our customers. But what also attracts people to us is that we offer a variety: we don't just have one Roquefort, one Camembert, but several options, with the possibility of guiding the customer towards the type of taste they are looking for.

DB: The real difference, beyond the expertise, is that we have products that have been specifically selected by each professional and that will be brought to their peak of taste.

Does it change a lot from what can be found in supermarkets?

CM: Yes, firstly because in many supermarkets, the cut-to-order section has been eliminated and everything is moving more and more towards self-service, which means people first turn to the products they know. And then there's the aging process, that changes everything! With us, the goods arrive, you sort them, store them properly, turn them regularly, take care of them... In large retail, the product arrives, you put it in the cold at 5°C, and it's locked!

What trends do you see emerging in consumer demand?

CM: The market has split in two, and this was accentuated with Covid and inflation. You're either "low price" or you're quality. Another major evolution is in the clientele of 25-35 year olds: they eat poorly during the week but want to treat themselves on the weekend and come to us. From our side, the offer is also evolving, with a more frank highlighting of preparations: brie with truffle, cheeses with walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.

DB: This offer also evolves by offering more and more dining or snacking options. We also see a real boom in cheese bars, which account for about 10% of creation projects. The idea is to be in the concept of a "universe": when you enter a dairy-cheese shop, it's to access the world of quality cheeses, and this encourages the dairy-cheese shopkeeper to work on how they can present their cheeses to the consumer but also the products that can accompany them. This could be jams, honeys, or drinks, always selected by the professional.

CM: The real plus is when the dairy-cheese shopkeeper can offer local products. Customers want local, increasingly. However, we cannot neglect foreign cheeses either: people travel abroad more often than before and they want to find at our place cheeses they enjoyed during their trip.

Training, the heart of the profession. How is the training offer within the sector evolving?

CM: We have invested in training to make people competitive. We have created a professional qualification certificate (CQP) with a duration of nine months to become a sales advisor. Moreover, since 2015, we have moved to craftsmanship and now there is a cheesemonger's CAP. It's fundamental: all these diplomas allow us to valorize and especially to qualify the profession, as well as the creation of the MOF Cheesemonger title, since 2000. At the Federation level, we also have a training center, the CFPL, which offers continuing education in one-day sessions.

DB: The training offer is very comprehensive, ranging from the young apprentice through the CAP dairy-cheese shopkeeper to career change pathways with the CQP, including shorter courses that allow one to ask the right questions about their project. In addition, we offer a whole range of short courses, from one to a few days, on very specific themes: cutting technique, aging, packaging, decoration of trays…