France may not produce most of the cheese in the world, but no one can deny the love French show for their cheese. If French consume most of the 1.9 Million tons produced in the country annually, a lot is exported all over the world.1 But who on earth, except the French, eat the French cheese? Data provided by the French customs shows which nations in the world import French cheese, each month and for each cheese type. With these insights, French cheese exports will have no secrets for you.
French cheese exports by category
“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?” said Charles de Gaulle, French president in 1962.2 Real numbers may be higher now, with between 400 and 3,600 varieties, according to the counting method.1,3
Unfortunately, customs nomenclature is not as heavily detailed about cheese.4 If some famous cheese like Roquefort get their own category, others share a code according to their type. However, it remains easy to aggregate cheese type into human-readable categories. The following pie chart show the part of each cheese type in the 2015 exports.
Fresh cheese is the most exported kind of French cheese. Like the “Others cheeses” slice, these categories represent various commonplace cheese without appellation. 53% of the French cheese exports come from these 2 categories. Brie then account for 10% of the exports. The soft cow’s milk cheese seems appreciated outside France. Indeed, stronger cheeses like Camembert, Blue cheese or even Goat cheese seems less exported. And this pie chart does not displays many other types of cheese falling under 1% of the exports. These categories are aggregated in the “Other cheeses” slice.
Fun fact: French call pie charts “Camembert”, from the round cheese produced in Normandy.5 Camembert stood for 3% of the french cheese exports in 2015.
French cheese exports over time
While French eat cheese thorough the year, exports vary over time. It seems the rest of the world rather import French cheese at the end of the year. Also, exports return to low levels in August each year.
Who Are The Biggest French Cheese Eaters?
But who in the world are the biggest French cheese eaters? Aggregating 2015 export data for each country shows us which nations eat the most French cheese. The following map displays French cheese consumption by person. Number is obtained by divided total imports in kilograms by the estimated population.
Of course European countries eat more French cheese than the rest of world. Cultural proximity and lower shipping rates may explain their appetite for the French food. With 72 Kg of French cheese imports by person in 2015, Luxembourgers hold the top of the ranking. But it would be surprising to see them eating all that cheese. Actually, French customs only register the first destination of exported goods. Most likely this cheese was only packaged, processed or even stored in Luxembourg before reaching it final destination. Indeed, corporate taxes in Luxembourg remains way lower than in France.6
In total mass and value, another French neighbor is the biggest French cheese importer in the world. Germany imported 136 Millions tons of French cheese in 2015 for 705 Millions Euros. However for 82 Millions Germans, it only makes 1.7 Kg of french cheese per person. A rather good score yet, for this major economic partner of France.7