SALES of British cheeses are suffering as shoppers increasingly choose Continental varieties over traditional favourites such as Wensleydale, it has been revealed.

Increased availability of foreign cheeses, Continental versions being used on cookery shows, and higher prices of British varieties are thought to be behind the trend for more exotic cheeses.

In the past year, sales of Continental cheeses increased by 8.2 per cent.

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More people are also choosing stronger cheeses, with sales of extra mature cheese increasing by nearly seven per cent, according to analysts Mintel.

The price of nearly all cheese has increased over the past year due to low levels of milk production in the first half of last year and greater worldwide demand for dairy products, especially in the Far East.

In 2013, the price of milk reached its highest value for four years.

Industry insiders say tightened household budgets could also be behind the fall in sales of British block cheese, and an increased appetite for smaller portions of Continental cheeses such as brie and camembert.