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Traditional Latvian Jāņu cheese loses popularity, stores observe

Cheese producers worry that the traditional Jāņu cheese is losing demand, Latvian Television broadcast 4. studija reported May 9.

Midsummer is approaching, and Latvian residents will soon start looking for things to put on the table. Jāņu cheese is a Latvian curdled milk cheese, often with caraway seeds, traditionally eaten at the Jāņi or Midsummer celebration. The cheese producers association Siera klubs said that there was a reduction or even canceling of the orders of Jāņu cheese by the big stores. 

Liene Dupate-Ugale, head of Communications for the supermarket chain “Maxima Latvija”, said that there are two reasons for changing demand for traditional cheese.

“Number one is the Covid-19 crisis – people are no longer celebrating in the way they may have celebrated before, there are not so many people together, so they don't buy as much for the table. We also saw this last year, in 2020, when people bought less of this traditional Jāņu cheese,” the Maxima spokeswoman said.

“The second reason that habits have changed – in general, people want to experiment and try other flavors, such as mozzarella, feta, as well as hard cheese and aged cheeses, have been very demanded in our shop network,” Dupate – Ugale said.

Shop network Elvi spokeswoman Vineta Grigāne-Drande said that when analyzing cheese sales data for the past three years, Elvi's 2020 sales figures were even better than in 2019.

“But there is a case that we cannot deny that demand for such classic caraway cheeses is falling year by year, despite the fact that the overall cheese category seems to be growing. (..) More and more people choose different, perhaps more exotic cheeses,” the Elvi spokeswoman said.

It turns out that when buyers vote with their purse at cash, then caraway cheese is no longer in the first places.

“Last year we conducted a survey of customers on what their midsummer table looks like and what they consider to be an absolutely integral part, then it was said that cheese is still among those top positions, but at the same time, it is neither the first, nor the second, nor the third. Instead, it only ranks fifth,” the Elvi spokeswoman said.

Alina Šakirova, spokeswoman for Rimi Latvija, said that “the fact that people may be celebrating all holidays in a narrower family circle is visible, and accordingly there are no longer such extensive celebrations and products are not purchased as much”.

“Also this year, just before the celebration, we will expand our assortment with even more types of caraway cheese,” the Rimi spokeswoman said.

You can read more about the cultural significance of the cheese in this story from our archives and even try making an interesting variant with this simple recipe.

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