“Let’s invent a cheese!”
That isn’t a phrase you hear every day. Yet, in 1982, the Milk Marketing Board said exactly that. The Board, which controlled milk production and distribution in the United Kingdom, wanted to use all the surplus milk we had to make other dairy products. What dairy product did Britain need more of? Cheese, obviously.
While we had a cornucopia of Cheddar, lashings of Lancashire and a surfeit of Stilton, the Dairy Gods decreed that what the country needed most was a kind of soft blue Brie.
You’ll notice that many of the cheeses we have are named after places; Cheshire is made in Cheshire, obviously, and Gloucester in Gloucester, and so on. What to do with an invented cheese? That’s right, you invent a new place.
“Let’s invent a fictitious village!”
There is no charming English hamlet of Lymeswold, although there was a fetching illustration of it on the packaging. The village existed only in the minds of the executives at the ad agency.
Despite the disdain of cheese aficionados, who were always going to stick with their Stilton, Lymeswold was a huge success. Shortly after its launch in September 1982, it sold out. Bewildered would-be purchasers roamed through the empty aisles, in mourning. Dairy Crest had to cancel a planned 2-million-pound advertising campaign while they let supply catch up with demand.
Alas, the success was short-lived. Rumours abounded that the Board, in a panic, released maturing stocks before actual maturity, which gave poor Lymeswold a reputation for poor quality.
Whatever the truth, Lymeswold was not a stellar example of British manufacturing competence. It never regained favour and production ceased in 1992.
It was not alone, however, in fictional origin stories when it comes to food. Several supermarkets have happily introduced foods from farms that do not exist.
Also, however much you would like to think that your Marks and Spencer salmon comes from a sparkling body of water in the Scottish Highlands, Lochmuir doesn’t exist, either.
And if you think your Willow Farm chicken has actually come from Willow Farm, then you probably believe that your sweetcorn is picked by a jolly green giant and Martians want you to eat instant potato products.