Over the last 12 years domestic sales of France's celebrated Camembert cheese have fallen by around 20%, the equivalent of 20,000 tonnes a year.

The white, ripe cheese is part of what the French call the holy trinity of the culinary good life, cheese, wine and bread, and national newspaper Le Monde described Camembert's fall from favour as a disgrace.

According to local legend, the Normandy cheese was first produced by a peasant woman called Marie Harel during the French Revolution, when in 1790 she gave shelter to a fugitive priest from Brie and he repaid her kindness with a cheese recipe.

Producers blame a change in lifestyle for the drop in sales. A slightly runny cheese, Camembert is best enjoyed in a leisurely fashion, and as a consequence does not always fit in with the busy lives of today's generations, who prefer to munch harder cheeses while on the go. Others meanwhile favour pasteurised Camembert-lite imitations.