Cheddar is nation’s favourite cheese but sales fall

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Is grilled cheese toast? Mintel research revealed a 7% drop in popularity
Is grilled cheese toast? Mintel research revealed a 7% drop in popularity

Related tags Cheese

Cheddar remains the nation’s favourite cheese but total cheese sales continue to fall, according to new research from Mintel.

The Somerset cheese reigned supreme with 87% of Britons buying it during the past three months, up from 82% in 2012. It also accounted for the biggest sales, claiming an estimated 50% of the total market measured by value and 52% by volume this year.

But while 95% of Britons reported buying cheese over the past three months, volume sales are continuing to fall. Total cheese sales are expected to drop by 3.9% to 347M kg this year, down from 361M kg last year.

This is the second consecutive year volume sales have fallen, after the market peaked at 364M kg in 2012. Mintel senior food and drink analyst Richard Ford said two factors were making cheese harder to stomach for some consumers.

‘Challenges to operators’

“Despite the ongoing popularity of cheese, volatility in milk prices and consumers’ sensitivity to price changes in cheddar represent challenges to operators in the cheese market,”​ he said. “The ending of EU milk quotas and the provision of free school meals for reception and year one and two pupils also create a degree of uncertainty in the market at present.”

And Britons were fully prepared to downgrade to cheaper alternatives if their favourite products rose in price. Less than one third (29%) of cheddar buyers said they wouldn’t change their buying habits if there was a 10% rise in the price of their favourite branded cheddar.

One in three (31%) pledged to switch to a less expensive branded cheddar and a quarter said they would switch to a less expensive own-label cheddar.

The research also uncovered a 7% fall in the numbers of Britons enjoying cheese on toast. The popularity of the grilled treat had fallen from two-thirds (67%) in 2012 to just three in five (60%) this year. But it remained the second most popular way of eating cheese after using it in sandwiches.

‘Changes in the weather’

“This may reflect changes in the weather between 2012 and 2014, as well as the decline in sales of pre-packed sliced bread, which provides a base for cheese on toast,”​ said Ford. “To appeal to younger consumers, operators could look to boost interest by tapping into the trend for ‘grilled cheese’ sandwiches currently seen in foodservice, by repositioning cheese on toast as an ‘open grilled cheese sandwich’.”

On a brighter note for cheese enthusiasts, value sales growth is predicted to grow by 2.5%, taking the market value to £2.7b this year, up from £2.6bn in 2013. Sales of processed cheese shown volume growth of 8% during the past two years, rising from 39M kg in 2012 to an estimated 42M this year.

Meanwhile 20% consumers who buy cheese said they would pay more for cheese if they knew the farmer had received a fair price. A further 19% would pay more for cheese made with milk from cows that are reared to a high animal welfare standard.

“British cheese makers need to ensure they offer a USP other than simply being British, to future-proof themselves in case of growing imports of cheaper cheese when EU milk quotas are phased out​”, said Ford. “Their support for farmers through fair pricing offers one potential area to explore.”


Cheesy numbers

  • 87: Percentage of Britons who bought Cheddar in the past three months
  • 95: Percentage of Britons who bought cheese over the past three months
  • 3.9: % to 347M kg this year, down from 361M kg last year.
  • 364: M kg of sold during the peak cheese year of 2012
  • 2.7bn: Value of UK cheese market this year
  • 20: Percentage of consumers prepared to pay more if farmers received a fair price

Source: Mintel

Related topics Dairy Dairy-based ingredients

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