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Discover a new world of cheese at SIAL

Cheese expert Gurth Pretty talks about trends and opportunities in the cheese category

SIAL Canada—Canada’s largest food and beverage show—is back for its 16th edition, running April 30 to May 2 at Toronto’s Enercare Centre. Cheese expert Gurth Pretty will be on hand to showcase exciting innovations in cheese from Canada and around the world. In advance of the show, we caught up with Pretty to find out what’s on the cheese menu at SIAL Canada.

As an expert Cheese Ambassador, what is your role at SIAL?

As the resident Cheese Ambassador at SIAL Canada 2019, my role is to stimulate conversations and ideas between show attendees and cheese exhibitors, to be available to show attendees and answer their questions, to create and coordinate innovative cheese-related events, and to showcase the cheese exhibited at the trade show.

What’s new and exciting at this year’s show?

The trade show is an opportunity for the exhibitors to show innovation (new products, packaging, formats and labelling) to the food retail and foodservice industries. SIAL Canada is also innovative in its events offered to exhibitors and show attendees.

SIAL’s inaugural International Cheese Competition is one example. Cheese exhibitors are invited to submit their products in 26 categories, to be sampled, scored and commented on by cheese professionals and chefs. To assist in the cheesemakers’ professional development, they will receive copies of the judges’ comments. The hope of the cheesemaker is that their product will be selected first as the category champion, then be re-tasted by the judges with all the other category champions, and named Grand Champion. The judging and results take place on April 30th. Media will be advised as to who are the champions that day. Consumers will be asking retailers if they sell these cheeses, and chefs will be curious to taste them and to incorporate them into their menus.

The Battle of the Chefs on May 2nd will be an all-out food fight, using cheese. Two guest chefs will vie for the honour to be named victor, by cooking mouth-watering, sumptuous dishes featuring cheese. Cheese adds flavour to dishes! American Cheese Ambassador Lassa Skynner with chefs Chuck Hughes and Martin Kouprie will be the judges, having to score the dishes on presentation, taste and innovative use of the featured cheese.

In what way does the USMCA and CETA agreements help cheese producers increase their business ?    

CETA and the USMCA provide opportunities for cheese importers to present other products to Canadian food retailers and foodservice. There exists a vast world of cheese which Canadian consumers are unaware of. Importers will be reviewing their current assortment, considering potential and viable products to introduce to retail cheese buyers. Consumers will have to be educated regarding these new cheeses and how to use them in cooking.

What is the future of the food industry in your area of expertise?

The cheese industry in Canada is blooming. New Ontario cheesemaking programs at Conestoga College (Kitchener/Waterloo) and La Cité Collégiale (Ottawa) in French are scheduled to open their doors to their first students in the fall of 2020. Canadian cheeses are winning at international competitions, surprising the Europeans and Americans.

Consumers want to have access to more delicious cheese, whether they’re imported, Canadian and local artisanal, the classics or the new. The challenge for retail cheese category managers is to have the right mix, to be able to fulfill the needs and asks of their customers.

Gurth M. Pretty is a passionate, Canadian cheese professional. He is a graduate of the 2006 class from Toronto’s Cheese Education Guild, the first graduating class of cheese professionals. He wrote two books, The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal & Fine Cheese (Whitecap Books 2006), soon followed by The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook(Whitecap Books 2007), co-authored with wine writer and judge Tony Aspler. In 2018, Gurth was recognized for his efforts by being invited to become a member of La Guilde Internationale des Fromagers, an international association of professional cheesemakers, affineurs, dairy processors and cheesemongers. From 2011 to 2019, Gurth was the corporate cheese expert and Sr. Specialist – Deli Cheese, for the Market division of Loblaw Companies Limited, Canada’s largest food retailer.


Meet Gurth @SIAL Canada
April 30 to May 2 - the Enercare Centre, Toronto
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