Cheese has been produced in Switzerland since time immemorial. The Swiss are also keen cheese eaters.
There are over 450 different cheeses in Switzerland: hard cheese, soft cheese, cottage cheese, cheese made in mountain chalets, cheese made in valley factories, or hard cheeses from which shavings are planed or scraped into rosettes. All have their own distinct taste and flavour. Gruyère is the best known and is produced in the greatest quantity, followed by Emmental and Mozzarella. Other famous cheeses include Sbrinz, Appenzeller, Raclette and Tête de Moine.
Cheese production has long been important for alpine farming communities. In the 15th century, farmers began to use rennet, a substance taken from the stomach lining of calves, to extend the shelf life of cheese, transforming it into a staple food. Switzerland began exporting its cheese to Europe in the 18th century.
Today, around 180,000 tonnes of cheese is produced in Switzerland every year. One third is destined for the export market, primarily France, Italy and Germany.