The two are not exactly rivals, the former is best enjoyed on its own, while the latter is mainly used in salads, pizzas and pasta dishes.
But the declining popularity of Camembert is forcing France to recognize that its tastes and cheese traditions are changing.
“Camembert suffers because it is seen as old-fashioned and lower class, while mozza has appealed to young people,” said Mike Bija, who runs La Crémière du 17, a stylish cheese bar in a cool corner of Paris. .
Next to glasses of wine, he offers a traditional Camembert made with raw milk, but also a milder version made from Italian buffalo milk – which would once have been a heresy.
“Camembert is an adventure, it is a demanding product with a strong taste,” says his partner Sakina Merazga.
Sales of white discs fell 11% in five years to 2020, to 48,000 tonnes per year – the only drop among the top five French cheeses, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Sales of mozzarella for their part jumped 62% over the period, to nearly 38,000 tonnes, and show no signs of slowing down.
“Sales of mozzarella will soon overtake those of Camembert,” consumer research firm Nielsen wrote in a recent study.
– Modern times –
Heavyweight is the lost tradition of having a range of cheeses at the end of every meal, something now reserved for dinner parties or celebrations.
“My parents ate it after lunch and dinner,” said Emilie Flechard, whose family owns Fromagerie Gillot, the largest independent producer of raw milk camembert in France, in the village of Saint-Hilaire-de-Briouze. .
“Myself, I never eat cheese after a meal, except when I invite guests,” she said, as employees poured curds into molds, a process repeated at strict intervals five times. per day to make each cheese.
This change also reflects changing purchasing habits, with most people now buying their cheese from supermarkets that mainly carry consumer brands.
A quaint neighborhood cheese factory, aging more expensive produce in-house, is largely a thing of the past – only three percent of French cheese sales are in specialty stores or market stalls, according to the ministry.
Families, meanwhile, are getting smaller and many don’t want to buy a whole Camembert that will ripen quickly in the fridge once opened.
There are two types of pie chart, telling two very different stories.
– Quantity vs quality –
The vast majority of Camembert cheese is made with pasteurized milk by dairy giants like Lactalis, the market giant with brands like President.
It was one of the first mass-produced and widely accessible French cheeses, and therefore the emblem of France’s wine-bread-cheese triptych.
But due to its smoother if not bland flavor and a texture sometimes described as chalky or gooey, the French have started to lift the nose.
“In a way, Camembert is like the baguette, which became highly industrialized in the second half of the 20th century, becoming bland and tasteless,” said Loïc Bienassis, researcher at the European Institute of history and cultures of food in Tours, France.
The decline in sales, in part, “is the price of its success,” he said.
But demand is strong for originals made with tastier raw milk from Gillot and a dozen other producers under the strict name Camembert de Normandie (PDO).