Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Concept: Artisan Blends

An interesting press release fluttered into my inbox this week. The headline: "Sargento’s Artisan Blends Feature Cheese From Roth Käse, Maple Leaf, Burnett Dairy, Zanetti Family of Italy."

Since one does not often see the words "artisan cheese" combined with "Sargento", I was rather perplexed by this notion. After all, Sargento is a national cheese brand best known for its pre-packaged sandwich cheese slices and shredded commodity cheeses carrying the Green Bay Packers logo. Based in Plymouth, Wis., it's one of our state's best known commodity cheese makers and its line-up of packaged cheeses is found in nearly every grocery store across Wisconsin.

Well, turns out that Sargento is now plunging into the artisan cheese market by creating a "ground-breaking product for the specialty cheese category." As far as I can tell, this product consists of packages of blended shredded cheeses from three Wisconsin cheese companies and one Italian cheese company.

According to the press release, Sargento’s Artisan Blends will arrive in stores nationwide next month and will be available in six shredded varieties:


  • Parmesan made with Zanetti imported Grana Padano

  • Parmesan & Romano made with Zanetti imported Grana Padano

  • Whole Milk Mozzarella and Whole Milk Mozzarella & Provolone made with Burnett Dairy Whole Milk Mozzarella

  • Double Cheddar made using Sharp Cheddar from Maple Leaf

  • Swiss Blend made with Roth Käse Grand Cru Gruyere.

Sargento has even spiced up its website by adding earth tones, a fancy schmancy set of intro screens and declaring itself as: "Persnickety People, Exceptional Cheese."

So to recap, Sargento is blending and shredding cheeses from the following companies: Roth Käse USA, Inc. of Monroe, Wis; Maple Leaf Cheese, Monroe, Wis; Burnett Dairy Cooperative, Grantsburg, Wis; and the Zanetti family of Italy.

They are then re-packaging these cheeses and calling them "Artisan Blends".

While this has to be good for the business side of Wisconsin cheese companies, I can't decide if the entire concept is marketing genius or if it's the next step on a slippery slope that may eventually negate the meaning of the words "artisan cheese."

Time will tell. I'll be interested to sample the products once they hit my grocery store shelf.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sargento Artisan Cheese, now that's an oxymoron that has legs.

Hopefully, before the ship has sailed, Wisconsin will figure out that rewriting the definition of Artisan Cheesemaking and actually encouraging the growth of a "real", not virtual, artisan cheese making sector are two different things. Your article was most revealing in your suggestion that Sargento is a cheese maker. Sargento doesn't make cheese and never has. They are a cut & wrap operation and always has been. Inspite of the fact that their cleverly crafted TV commercials show cheese makers, they don't actually have any of those.

Sargento, Kraft, Alto and Foremost are big corporations that would like to hijack the term "artisan" for their marketing hype. It is ashamed that the WMMB is actively helping in this deception. This is the kind of behavior on the part of our governments that destroyed the concept of "organic". Honesty would be nice to see in our state government. They are supposed to be the watch dogs that keep an eye on the big corporations not the guys helping them con the public. I assume your next article will be about the beautiful sunrise over the fields at Crystal Farms. A recent billboard that they put up said "Farm fresh, not factory fresh". They are another cut & wrap operation, no farms, just factories.

Please don't encourage this.

Anonymous said...

Jeanne:

Sorry for the last comment, it seems you are one of the good guys. My screen stopped printing your article in the middle of the product listings. When I read the printout I done I found that you and I agree completely, what a relief that someone in the establishment understands that we are destroying any possiblilty of Wisconsin building an actual Artisan sector because they like to pretend they have one by repackaging the same old commodity products with a new name.

Thanks for helping to reveal it to the masses. I would love to see us build an artisan cheese sector. We have the knowledge and the heart we just need to get the commodity cheese establishment, back by the state to get out of the way and be helpful, not hindering.

Good job, thanks for the info.

bob said...

By way of introduction, I own the PR firm that represents Sargento and our staff is the originator of the release you refer to. Thanks by the way for blogging about the new line. I'd like to add to the conversation if I can.

By the way you can read a blog post at our firm's blog (brandtrailblazers.com/blog) about the luanch event in New York for this new product.

Much like Starbucks is an aggregator of high-end beans and adds value in roasting/retailing, Sargento is an aggregator in cheese. The goal is to bring new and more interesting cheese experiences to a wider audience. I can tell you with some knowledge the company is not interested in hijacking the artisan cheese category. You would be surprised and maybe delighted by the interaction between Sargento and the artisan cheese makers this new initiative has created.

What is coming we believe is an enormous change in the array of forms and styles of cheese that consumers will be increasingly drawn to. This cheese adventure may be in its early stages but the parallels with explosion in super premium wine business are uncannily similar. It will take time but the future is bright for Wisconsin and artisan/farmstead producers.

Sargento is in a position to help support the artisan community and this product line is a small first step. All things in supermarket distribution, I have over many years, takes time. More evolutionary than revolutionary. Consumer interests will be served and the challenge for Sargento and others will be to meet their desire for mor interesting taste experiences.

Thanks again for your interest...

Bob Wheatley, CEO
Wheatley & Timmons Inc.

Anonymous said...

Well Bob that is an interesting sentiment, but if small artisan cheese makers really believe they are going to get help from a big corporation they need to reevaluate history. Big companies do things for themselves, but if they think there is a buck in it to suggest that they are artisan they will do it without the slightest hesitation. Are you from the company that put out the spify TV ad showing cheesemakers stirring the vat. Of course Sargento has no vats, and no cheese makers. The places that they are buying their cheese from dump the milk in the vat and turn on the agitator. Numerous lettered agencies are now trying to convince small cheesemakers that their market is finding a way to the supermarket but I don't think that is true. People that shop in supermarkets, for the most part, are there for the price not the quality. Oh I am sure someone will suggest that Whole Foods is all about quality. Remember that they have been stopped by the government from buying out Wild Oats, their only competitor in the sector and their CEO is being investigated for posting negative information about Wild Oats on the internet in an effort to drive the share price down. Corporate largess and its best.

Artisan cheesemakers of the world don't fall for the concept that the big guys are offering you altruistic assistance. They will take what they can get and dump you when the money guides them else where.

Anonymous said...

Who is the WMMB and what do they have to do with "helping this deception?"