Even in that bastion of cheese makers, the Netherlands, independents are losing ground to supermarkets.

Some 85% of Dutch shoppers bought their cheese at supermarkets rather than cheese shops last year, compared to 80% in 2000, a survey of the Dutch union of dairy producers, VNZ, revealed.

Furthermore, the majority of shoppers preferred the convenience of buying their cheese pre-wrapped rather than loose.

The number of cheese specialty shops fell to 623 in 2003 from 726 in 2000, reported AgriHolland.

On a brighter note, overall annual Dutch cheese consumption rose by 0.5kg in the ten years to 2004, to reach 14.9kg per capita.