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The charcuterie board business in north central Florida is raking in the cheddar

Ashley Baker says she tries lots of different variations of food placement one each of her charcuterie boards to find the most visually appealing one. (Megan Hartnett/WUFT News)
Ashley Baker says she tries lots of different variations of food placement one each of her charcuterie boards to find the most visually appealing one. (Megan Hartnett/WUFT News)

Like most other students during the pandemic, Liz Diaz found it difficult to join campus organizations upon arriving at the University of Florida for the fall 2020 semester.

While considering other extracurricular activities, Diaz, 22, who transferred from Auburn University, noticed a lack of delivery services for snacks and particularly charcuterie boxes.

“I saw the opportunity for my business and ran for it,” said the owner of The Box Gainesville, which caters to students with lower prices and late-night delivery options.

Charcuterie stems from the French words for flesh and cooked, and has traditionally been meat, cheese, crackers and fruits served – aesthetics matter – on wooden cutting boards at events or intimate gatherings as an appetizer. However, charcuterie could now include desserts and candy, and given the pandemic come in small personal cups to provide a more sanitary option.

The hashtag “charcuterie” has 2.1 million posts on Instagram and 770 million views on TikTok. A Google search of charcuterie nets 75 million hits. Sales of pre-packed boards increased in 2020 by more than 40% over 2019, according to Michael Uetz, a principal of Midan Marketing.

Prices vary, but start at about $25 and go up based on board size and food included.

“Boards are perfect for small gatherings like wine nights and are Instagram-worthy,” said Diaz, who plans to graduate from UF with a bachelor’s of science degree in plant science in April.

Serena Shumate opened The Charcuterie Mama a few weeks ago in Ocala after quitting her full-time job as a preschool teacher at Creative Beginnings Preschool. She said the job, the business and raising four children between ages 4 and 11 became too much to manage at once.

Shumate, 25, said presentation draws people to charcuterie boards and makes them more likely to eat what’s on it. The ease of ordering has helped businesses like hers grow.

“I could bake a cake myself, but I’d much rather have the convenience of picking it up,” Shumate said.

Ashley Baker, who launched Baker’s Table Co. in Gainesville in February, said the uniqueness of boards and the intimacy needed to enjoy one contribute to the popularity.

Baker, 34, who freelances as a content and social media manager, mainly for weddings, said she enjoys seeing people coming around a board to grab pieces of cheese and fruit.

“I’ve cared a lot about people gathering at the table,” Baker said. “It’s a lost art. Looking back, some of my fondest memories are being around the table with my family.”

The holidays have charcuterie makers swamped with orders. Baker said she has received nine orders in the past week. Diaz limits the amount of orders she completes depending on schoolwork, but she said she can complete anywhere from 25-50 per week. Shumate was completely booked for Thanksgiving and has almost reached her limit for Christmas.

“I can get over 30 messages a day,” she said. “On average, I get 15 orders a week, many with two or three boards each.”

Megan is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.