Differing attitudes to unpasteurised cheese

Unlike Norwegians, the French consumer prefers traditional cheeses to be based on unpasteurised milk. Many Norwegians are doubtful about unpasteurised cheese. In total contrast to Frenchmen. There many be many reasons for these differences, including the advice of the authorities and long traditions.

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Portrettbilde av Valérie Lengard Almli
Unlike Norwegians, the French consumer prefers traditional cheeses to be based on unpasteurised milk.
Unlike Norwegians, the French consumer prefers traditional cheeses to be based on unpasteurised milk.

Many Norwegians are doubtful about unpasteurised cheese. In total contrast to Frenchmen. There many be many reasons for these differences, including the advice of the authorities and long traditions.

The purpose of a recent consumer study in France and Norway was to find out which innovations consumers accepted or did not accept in a typical traditional cheese.

119 Norwegians and 122 French men and women, aged between 30 and 70, took part in the study. The Norwegian consumers were presented with 16 pictures of mature Jarlsberg, while those in France saw pictures of the very traditional cheese Epoisses. The packaging of the cheese in the pictures contained different information.

The consumers were to score the following innovations: pasteurised/unpasteurised production, increased omega-3 content, organic production and changes to packaging. Their assessment was also to take into account different prices and eating situations.

Tradition is important to consumers

“The biggest difference between people in Norway and France is their attitude to unpasteurised and pasteurised production. We found that if they were presented with several innovations in the cheese, one of them being “unpasteurised”, 47% per cent of the Norwegians gave a lower score for acceptance, regardless of what the other innovations might be, while the others were indifferent to pasteurisation,” explains Valérie Lengard Almli of Nofima Mat.

In Norway, the proportion of cheeses based on unpasteurised milk is small, but growing. It will therefore be very interesting to follow the development of this attitude in future.

When the French consumers were presented with corresponding innovations in Epoisses, one of them being “pasteurised”, 27% of them consistently gave a lower score for acceptance. The researchers believe they would probably have found the same trend if other traditional cheeses had been tested. France has a long tradition of producing cheese from unpasteurised milk, and safe production routines have been established. Even so, today most producers make Epoisses from pasteurised milk. Pasteurisation permits easier and cheaper production, and extends the “best before” date.

“But for many French consumers, if the milk has been pasteurised it feels less like traditional cheese. Also, French consumers often have the preconceived idea that unpasteurised cheese tastes better,” explains Almli. She has carried out the study, as part of the EU TrueFood project, in collaboration with the INRA Dijon research institute in France.

For special occasions

When it comes to cheese for everyday use, the Norwegian consumers were neither particularly positive nor negative to organic production. But we can see a clear trend that when the cheese is to be served on a special occasion, Norwegians are more interested in buying an organic variety of mature Jarlsberg.

“They are also willing to pay more for it then, and like to see it packed in a box with an exclusive feel to it, rather than the plastic packs we are used to. The way the cheese is produced and packed and the price we are willing to pay for it are thus closely linked with the eating situation.

The survey also showed that innovations that affect sensory quality are rejected by many consumers. Even though Epoisses has a very strong smell – you certainly know you have it in the fridge – French consumers did not want to replace the traditional wooden packaging with something that would contain the smell.

“These results confirm earlier findings,” concludes Almli. “Innovation in traditional products is usually accepted, provided the product’s sensory properties are unchanged.”

Consumer and sensory sciences  

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