On the heels of the Murray's Cheese/Kroger deal several days ago comes news that Artisanal Cheese, LLC, parent company of Artisanal Premium Cheese in New York has been acquired by American Home Food Products. See the full press release on that deal here. Murray's and Artisanal are big players in the retail cheese world and purchase significant amounts of cheese from small artisan cheesemakers all over the country. According to Jamie's interview with Rob Kaufelt over at Serious Eats, Murray's intent is to establish branded Murray's shops inside Kroger stores (sort like having a Starbucks inside Safeway, I guess). "Our goal is for customers to feel like they're walking into a mini Murray's Cheese, wherever they may be," said Kaufelt. AHFP's stated intentions are a nice exercise in one-upsmanship:
(from the press release):The Company (American Home Food Products) intends to rapidly expand the distribution of Artisanal’s product line by executing on strategic relationships with major companies in each of the four complimentary distribution channels that Artisanal’s product serves: foodservice, retail, print catalogue and E-commerce. The Company’s plan is to make Artisanal the leading national brand for best-in-class cheeses.
On the one hand the expansion of these two retail brands d'fromage signals an eye-popping upward trend in the market for artisan cheese...the AHFP press release calls the current cheese market a "fragmented, 6 billion dollar industry." On the other hand, I wonder what all of this will look like down the road, and particularly what it could mean for local cheese shops. Will what Borders and Barnes and Noble did to independent booksellers be repeated in the cheese industry? Stay tuned.