JEDDAH — The French Dairy Board (CNIEL), together with the European Union, have launched a 3-year program to highlight EU cheese in Saudi Arabia. Its first activities took place this November with exclusive events in Riyadh.
Last Oct. 31, Francois Robin – Awarded one of the Best Cheesemonger in France – was traveling to Riyadh to host a cheese workshop for foodies of the Saudi capital. The event took place at Riyadh Park Mall on the “House of Cheese” pop-up and guests had the chance not only to taste different cheeses from Europe but also to discover innovative pairing of French cheese with traditional Arabic ingredients.
Speaking at the event, Francois Robin said: “European cheese is adaptable and can be paired with all types of local ingredients, I have tried it with spices in India as well as in the UAE. Something like pomegranate molasses works well with Comté as it brings acidity and fruity touches. I’d also like to experiment with Asian flavors such as lemongrass, coriander and ginger as they’re so far removed from European cuisine”
In 2018, Saudi Arabia has imported 5 117 tons of French cheese which represent almost 22 million euros. EU cheese are a guarantee of expertise, authenticity, quality and food safety but also taste and refinement. France is one of EU biggest dairy exporter with the equivalent of 40% of its milk, approximately 10 billion liters, being dedicated to overseas markets, for the cheese only 1.9 million ton is produced yearly and 36% exported.
EU have established the PDO label (protected designation of origin); to provide the guarantee that these products are made in their region of origin from milk produced within a defined geographical zone and according to a method handed down from one generation to the next. France is the European and world leader in dairy PDO products, among its 1200 cheese 45 received the PDO label.
Marie-Laure Martin, French Dairy Board representative, said “Saudi Arabia is the most important market for EU and French cheese in the Middle East in terms of volume and value, with the program Cheese of Europe – Anytime, Anywhere, Anyhow we not only aim to highlight the variety of quality cheeses available in the country but also to show people the endless opportunities they offer.”
For the first year of the program, the “House of Cheese” pop-up took place in Riyadh Park last Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 and highlighted the diversity of French cheeses in Saudi Arabia. Cheesemonger Francois Robin hosted 5 workshops and cooking demos per day to educate visitors about cheeses and to show them their specificities, as well as various associations they can realize with local products. For this campaign, Francois Robin also hosted 3 professional training in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar, where he demonstrated the superiority of French Cheese. These professional training was the opportunity for Saudi chefs to discover European cheeses and to learn about the cheese-making process.