It’s the pits: Internationally renowned Welsh cheese company suffers major blow
A specialist cheddar cheese company based in the World Heritage site of Blaenafon has been delivered a huge blow which owners say will cost them thousands and threatens their very existence.
Blaenafon Cheddar Company, which was established in 2006, has traditionally aged some of its cheeses 300ft below ground at the bottom of the mine shaft at Big Pit mining museum, just half a mile from where they are made.
Now the business, which has an international reputation and customer base, has been told that Big Pit are ending the arrangement, giving no clear details, but blaming health and safety reasons.
The severing of this unique business relationship will cost the cheesemakers around £60,000 in lost revenue based around international food tourism, as coach tours from Europe would combine visits to the cheesemaking shop and Big Pit.
The company must also completely rebrand all their products, as well as their marketing materials and website at an estimated cost of £10,000.
The firm is a family affair jointly owned by Susan Fiander-Woodhouse & her husband Gerry Woodhouse. Susan manages the company on the day-to-day basis while Gerry organizes stock, deliveries, sets up the shows. They are joined by their daughter Charlotte who is the production manager.
The cheeses they age in the pit include their unique Black Gold, a traditional Caerphilly and their signature award winning mature cheddar, Pwll Mawr.
Once every 2 weeks Gerry does a cheese swap. He takes the cheeses to the Big Pit, ready for maturing and the miners bring up the batch which has been aging below ground for the past 2 weeks.
Pwll Mawr will now cease to be produced from 1st November 2021. Oak smoked Pwll Mawr will be continued.
Announcing the news on social media, Susan said: “We have some really sad news that is threatening our business. The National Museum have withdrawn our formal partnership to us aging cheese in the Big Pit.
“They will not disclose the reason but have said it is to do with health and safety. I was told by the Museum they could not tell us the reason in full.”
The company prides itself in the work it does for international tourism for Wales. It exhibits at many major events & festivals and has been featured in ‘Secret Supper club’ channel 4, ITV ‘Food Glorious Food’, BBC ‘Country File’ with Mat Baker & Coast & Country.
Susan said: “This is putting Welsh Tourism at risk, the town & our livelihood. Building the brand up which brings Tourism into our town has been my past passion since 2006.
“They [now] want to charge us for using our own images and some which have been supplied by the WAG. Our branding labelling, website, press & media will all have to be re written at a cost of about £10,000.”
The company has garnered many awards for their products, for services to tourism and food business excellence awards.
Susan added, “I am absolutely devastated. We stand to lose up to 60% of our livelihood and wonder about our survival. We are sad and exhausted. The National Museum is shameless.”
A family friend Marc Harris is owner of the Lion Hotel & Restaurant and a town councillor in Baenafon. Beneath his hotel are historic cellars and tunnels, once used by the Chartists, where the Cheddar will now be aged.
The cheese will be named 1868 after election riots which took place there in 1868 and will be launched in October at the Blas Cymru/Taste Wales event at the Celtic Manor.