Best Dairy Product of 2016

South Caernarfon Creameries’ Welsh Slate Cavern Aged Cheddar has won the Best Dairy Product 2016 at the Food Management Today Industry Awards.

The Cooperative created Welsh Slate Cavern Aged Cheddar in conjunction with Sainsbury’s and Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog. It was developed exclusively for Sainsbury’s and is sold nationally throughout the UK under their Taste the Difference brand in retail and deli format. It is also packed under our own Dragon brand.

The cheese takes a long traditional maturing method. Following initial maturation at the Creameries’ site, the cheese is then transported to the nearby Llechwedd Slate Cavern in the depths of Snowdonia and stored 500 feet underground in what is believed to be the steepest mining maturation caverns. The Cheddar is then left to mature again for several months. This process adds unique characteristics to the cheese; a firmer body and depth of flavour with rich savoury notes.

The Food Management Today Industry Awards recognise creativity, innovation and excellence in British food and award the best in the industry. Awards are presented to companies, associations, developments and personalities. There is a stringent judging process consisting of votes for products that have struck a chord with readers together with a select judging panel for product evaluation. Taste, texture, packaging, presentation and innovation are all considered.

Alan Wyn Jones, Managing Director said “We wanted to develop a unique cheddar that really demonstrated our Welsh heritage. We are so grateful that Llechwedd Slate Caverns in Blaenau Ffestiniog agreed to work with us to mature our cheese at their mine. The cheese is of outstanding quality and has sold exceptionally well, so to receive The Best Dairy Product Award is simply the icing on the cake! The award comes weeks before we open our new state-of-the-art cheese production facility on our site in Chwilog. Our investment will result in the first new major cheese factory build in the UK since the 1970’s and will provide us with best in class production facilities that will further support our growth plans and continued commitment to producing the best quality cheese.”

Win Merrells, Cheese Developer at Sainsbury’s said “This cheese has been a great success at Sainsbury’s. It has a fantastic eating quality that naturally develops during the long underground maturation. This, along with the provenance of the cheese has really captured the interest of our customers. It has been a pleasure to work with South Caernarfon Creameries on the development of this cheese and all credit to them for winning the award, it is richly deserved. We are very pleased to be stocking it at Sainsbury’s.”

Michael Bewick, Managing Director at Llechwedd Slate Caverns said “We are delighted to have been involved with this project from the outset. I didn’t think that within just twelve months we would be opening our third cheese maturation cave to fulfil demand. The response has been incredible and having cheese maturing in our slate mines has been a real talking point, especially as visitors see the maturation caves as part of their guided tour of the mine.”

South Caernarfon Creameries received the Best Dairy Product Award at the awards ceremony held at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, London on 10th February 2016. The event was hosted by celebrated chef, restauranteur and food writer Mark Hix.