His favorite is Beaufort. But among his 150 cheese references, each more enticing than the other, Geoffroy Denaud drinks whey. Since December 2019, the young man with the blue apron has been at the head of the Gilbert cheese dairy, opened in the new Prairie-au-duc district in Nantes. And he has “no regrets” moving his family here to invest in the franchise. “Cheese in France is culture, transmission from an early age, smiles the trader, who has since hired an employee and an apprentice. It’s also proximity, contact, with the product and with people. »
As in Nantes, many cheese dairies have sprung up all over the city over the past decade. If the profession suffered a lot in the 90s, with the rise of mass distribution, local shops took their revenge. “From 1,100 points of sale in 1998, we went to 3,200 a few years ago, calculates David Bazergue, general delegate of the federation of cheese makers in France. There has been significant turnover, with two-thirds of companies therefore less than ten years old. In the meantime, there was recognition of the craft trade, in 2015, with the creation of a CAP diploma. We have also witnessed a major movement of professional retraining. »
Diversity and advice, “like in a bookstore”
A business school graduate, Alexandre Renault knows this trend well. At 34, the one who trained at Cifca on a work-study program and launched at Paris Cheese Of the World (COW), just before confinement, works with Victor, previously business developer, or Florent, former truck mechanic. In November, “these epicureans and rather good cooks” even opened a second shop, in the 17th arrondissement, where there are at least five others within a radius of 50 meters. “We offer an international, more global range, like a cheese dairy that we could find in a European capital, details Alexandre Renault. Our concept is atypical, with our cheeses from around the world in addition to everyday ones. »
Diversity of the offer but also advice, this is what allows small cheese dairies to do well. goat cheese and roquefort. But also with a Pont-Lévêque and Filetta from Corsica, which the sales assistant, Tamara, has just made him discover. In this district, it is definitely the new wine merchant who had the idea of opening an adjoining cheese dairy a few months ago. “After the Covid, it was people who asked me to complete the offer of local shops, says Gildas Bretagne, the founder of Sacré fromage. They want to treat themselves, putting the price for quality, and are very curious. They pass here like in a bookstore. »
Uncertainties but still potential
But as the habits formed during Covid fade, raw material costs soar and inflation rises, does the future still look bright for small cheese dairies? Nothing is less certain according to the traders interviewed. “Even if our activity, which does not require an oven, is not the most energy-intensive, the economic situation is less favorable due to the climate of uncertainty”, recognizes David Bazergue of the federation of cheese makers, who foresees a drop in the number business creations.
However, with 27 kg of cheese consumed per inhabitant and per year, there would always be potential for those who would like to get started, and in particular “in the suburbs of large agglomerations, popular after the Covid”. “Those who are well trained and who work well will hold on, thinks for his part Alexandre Renault. Those who opened for less good reasons will suffer, or close. »