Relief as just one cheese needs new name under EU deal

Whitestone Cheese managing director Simon Berry holds a stack of the company's Fuchsia Creek Feta...
Whitestone Cheese managing director Simon Berry holds a stack of the company's Fuchsia Creek Feta, which will have to undergo a name change after the New Zealand-EU free trade agreement has blocked the use of the name "feta". PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN
When you say cheese, your feta had better be Greek.

As part of the free-trade agreement signed between New Zealand and the European Union yesterday, new geographic indications that protect the names of products that originate from specific areas will be introduced, preventing cheeses produced in New Zealand from being branded as "feta", beloved to Greece, in nine years’ time.

However, the industry has not been as fettered by the deal as had been initially feared.

Whitestone Cheese managing director Simon Berry said it was a relief that only feta would need to be rebranded for now.

"They’ve actually held the line, which is good — they were talking [about renaming] goudas, gruyere, and quite a few cheeses, and they didn’t agree to those," Mr Berry said.

He believed the rebranding of feta was a great opportunity to embrace what was "distinctly New Zealand" and create a stronger identity for the country’s cheese on the international stage.

"We take it as an opportunity to rebrand, and if we do it properly that will be a benefit for the consumer because then we’ve got our own identity carved out," Mr Berry said.

A new name could not be anything similar to feta — such as the obvious "wheta" — it had to relate to the attributes of New Zealand’s product, he said.

Feta cheese will need a new name. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Feta cheese will need a new name. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
"It’s a good chance for us as New Zealand cheesemakers to say, ‘Righto, well, what is different about ours? What are the characteristics of it? Do we give it a name of national significance?"

"We’re going to have to get creative."

Mr Berry would love everyone in New Zealand to have their say in the rebranding of the country’s feta, and to support all New Zealand-made cheeses.

There was plenty of discussion to be had as an industry to determine the next steps, he said.

"But we’ve got time."

Evansdale Cheese owner-manager Pablo Dennison said the name change was nothing new and the wine industry had gone through it.

"The question will be can we still call it feta or is the name say NZ feta to be allowed? Or not any reference to a foreign name at all," he said.

"But it is what it is and we in New Zealand are always creative and inventive — if we have to rename and rebrand I know we all will do it in absolute style."

rebecca.ryan@odt.co.nz