The U.S. cheese industry is reeling from seven months of chaos as the coronavirus pandemic causes upheaval in prices and demand.
Prices for cheeses from mozzarella to cheddar hit near-record highs this month, but cheese makers are on edge after sharp swings in demand have thrown their production plans into disarray. Those soaring prices have also scrambled planning for buyers from pizza chains to grocery stores, prompting restaurants to limit purchases to avoid getting stuck with expensive inventories if the pandemic slashes business again.
For Errico Auricchio, president of BelGioioso Cheese Inc., a Wisconsin-based cheese maker, plunging demand last spring forced him to shift from making fresh cheeses that can’t be stored, like mozzarella, to hard cheeses like Parmesan, which are aged for up to a year before they are marketed. BelGioioso’s plants filled to the brim with so much unsold cheese that he had to rent extra space to store millions of pounds of Parmesan.