The softening of a cheese brand

I first ran into Balderson’s cheese in the early 1990s. J.M. Schneider was one of our clients, and I was in a specialty foodie store with someone who had worked selling their cheeses to stores. He said to me “if you like cheese, this is the best brand to get”. I figured he knew what he was talking about, picked up a package, decided it was good cheese and have been buying it ever since.

I never questioned my decision or the cheese until last week.

I saw ‘Balderson’s Spreadable Cheddar’.

I’ve known for some time that the friendly old Balderson family didn’t make the cheese anymore, evidenced by the fact that it started to appear at many supermarkets instead of only the (high-priced) foodie places that stocked it back then, and I’d noticed that the packaging was getting a little slicker. Still, I had faith in Balderson’s.

Sorry, Balderson’s, but when I see spreadable cheddar I fear the next thing is Balderson’s Spray-On Cheese Product.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Balderson’s Spreadable Cheddar meets its numbers and projections. I can see the bright marketing whiz who came up with it as the great combination of quality and convenience standing in front of a PowerPoint and proudly proclaiming its success.

But for me, it has made me doubt the entire Balderson story. I’ve started tasting other cheeses and, you know what? Balderson’s is pretty good – but not better enough than the main stream brands to command such a premium, and not as good as the cheeses that are still made by the Balderson-type families of the world and are available at the foodie places.

I don’t know if there are other people like me, and of course I don’t know how it will all play out, but I think Balderson’s Spreadable Cheddar is the kind of thing that begins the process of eroding the profitability of the brand.

I still ‘know’ (which is probably as much perception as fact) that Balderson’s is good cheese. I just don’t think I want to pay more for it now.