France's Favorite Cheese of 2020 Was… Mozzarella?
France is, of course, known for its cuisine and especially its cheeses. But during the 2020 year of COVID-19 lockdowns, the French apparently took a bit of inspiration from their neighbors to the southeast. A new report says that, though cheese as a whole saw a spike in sales during the pandemic, the cheese that saw one of the largest sales increases in France last year was… mozzarella.
French purchases of cheese for home consumption "broke all records" in 2020, wrote the French food site Les Marches. But though sales of cheeses made from cow's milk were said to be up 9.4 percent overall, mozzarella saw possibly the most notable gain: a 21.2 percent jump.
Unfortunately, Les Marches didn't delve into why the classic Italian cheese was suddenly so much more popular: Comparatively, looking at French cheeses, Comte was up 8.2 percent, Coulommiers was up 5.6 percent, and Camembert was up 2.2 percent. And it's not like mozzarella was a niche market to begin with: The Italian food site Gambero Rosso has explained that, as of 2016, France was the largest consumer of Italian mozzarella in Europe.
But The Guardian may have narrowed in on a culprit: Sales of raclette grills—which specialize in melting cheese—were, at times, apparently up as much as nearly 300 percent last year in France. Not coincidentally, data shows that raclette cheeses were also up 12.2 percent in 2020. And as perhaps the final piece of the puzzle, in November, Le Figaro reported that some French were worried about a raclette cheese shortage.
So though the easy guess is that the French suddenly started experimenting with at-home pizza-making—and, frankly, that could be the case—mozzarella may also have spiked as home chefs sought out easy-melting alternatives to use with their newly purchased raclette machines. As Les Marches explained, one of cheese's advantages during a lockdown is that it "is synonymous with comfort, especially when melted." And though the French may not have been able to travel to Italy, perhaps opting for mozzarella was a way to travel with their taste buds.