Throwing Open the Doors: our Wholesale Open Day 2022

We sell cheese in our shops and online but our wholesale department is the largest part of our business. We have a team of wholesale account managers who sell our cheese to restaurants, shops and food halls all over the UK and export to wholesalers and businesses across the world. You can find out more about how our wholesale department operates here, and if you’re interested in finding a Neal’s Yard Dairy stockist overseas, check out this list.  

Here, Rob, one of our wholesale account managers, shares his reflections on our recent Wholesale Open Day.  

When the shutters of our maturation facilities in Bermondsey were lifted this May, it was a significant moment for us in the wholesale team. It was the first open day that we have been able to host since 2019, and my first ever. To have the cheesemakers we work with, our colleagues and our customers all in one place is important for business but what made the day truly special was the reminder of the wonderful community we’re part of.  

According to Srdja, our Wholesale Manager the purpose of the day is to show people what we do and how we work with cheese – and to introduce them to cheesemakers and things they haven’t tried before. To get people excited!”. In our wholesale department, we speak to our customers every day about how the cheese is tasting. We give advice as needed on caring for and serving it. Helping customers make a direct connection to where the cheese comes from – and the role we play in the journey of the cheese from field to table – is a key part of what we do at Neal’s Yard Dairy. As my colleague Lucy said, “the cheesemakers are the big draw…customers can see first-hand how small the feedback loop is (between us and them)”. 

Up until 2020 I’d always worked in kitchens. After joining Neal’s Yard Dairy as a seasonal hire I made the career change permanent and settled into our wholesale sales team. Since then, I’ve been enjoying talking to customers across the country- usually only on the phone- and getting to know them remotely. Though I’ve been able to start visiting restaurants, farms and shops, and host some tours of our site in recent months, there were literally dozens of people arriving who I ‘knew’ and was keen to talk to in person for the first time. 

Wholesale Account Manager Karim irons a cheese for a group of customers

In the end we were inundated with several hundred cheesemongers, retailers, chefs, bakers, brewers, waiters, and every other sort of food professional you might imagine – with guests from as far afield as the US, Finland, Italy, Belgium & Japan. They had all come to look round our maturation facilities and to meet and taste cheese with nineteen of the cheesemakers we work with.  

We were honoured that so many of the producers we work with put shifts in at their farms before coming down to see us. To give just a small sample, Graham Kirkham who had been up at dawn making Lancashire, was practically mobbed by friends and admirers on arrival, and would be found enjoying himself at Borough Market late into the evening. Maggie Maxwell made it all the way down from Northumberland to taste out Doddington in the nick of time, despite nursing a nasty leg injury. David Clarke, who makes Sparkenhoe Red Leicester with his wife Jo, swept in with an armful of herbal leys just as things kicked off and talked us through each grass and herb as he arranged them for the display table. 

There was a real buzz of excitement that afternoon of a community reassembling. In the end the turnout was so big, it wasn’t possible to talk to everybody I’d hoped to see. But it was truly heartening to meet so many friendly and engaged people who love cheese.