A CHEESE company is celebrating after scooping a clutch of major awards in national competitions.

The victories of the Richmond-based Swaledale Cheese Company came after its products were awarded updated European-recognised protected origin status.

The company, which was founded 21 years ago, won three gold awards at the Great Taste Awards and three gold and two bronze medals at this year’s World Cheese Awards.

Managing director Mandy Reed said: "Gaining recognition in this way is a wonderful reward after years of effort."

She said the awards proved that gaining and maintaining Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) was "well worth doing."

The company worked with food safety experts Product Authentication International to update the product line’s PDO status in the light of the EU and DEFRA’s requirements.

PAI’s food sector manager, Jane Aislabie, said: "By having the PDO status, Mandy ensures that the Swaledale Cheese name is protected from imitators and cannot be made outside the Swaledale area.

"The award of PDO to Swaledale Cheese reflects its unique heritage, recipe, character and reputation."

She added that the increasing interest among UK consumers in traditional and provincial food had meant producers who had EU PDO status had a significant opportunity to enhance their image and increase sales.

Swaledale Cheese currently produces around 70 tonnes of cheese per year and supplies specialist cheese shops, delicatessens, independent retailers and cheese wholesalers throughout the UK with its cows, goats and ewes milk cheeses.

Mrs Reed said: "The traditional handmade nature of our Swaledale cheeses and the particular environmental characteristics of the local area where our herds graze, gives these cheeses their defining character and taste advantage.

"Having PDO status means that we can prevent lower quality, mass produced imitations from swamping the market and we can continue to provide something individual to the Yorkshire dales which the region can be proud of."