An over-reliance on traditional block cheddar is holding back the cheese category according to Bel UK. It argues that it’s time to look elsewhere for growth.
BRITISH consumers are lagging behind the cheese lovers of other European countries. The average French or German chomps through 18kg a year, compared to the British average of just 11kg.
According to Bel UK, the company behind Babybel, the Laughing Cow and others, that gap results from poor sales of types of cheese beyond block cheddar.
Last year a Bel UK research project identified a “lack of emotional connection” as the biggest barrier to growth.
Steve Gregory, head of category management said: “With an over-dependence on promotions in block cheeses, the everyday cheese category is struggling to generate additional sales and create that spark of interest for the consumer.
“Innovation and correct ranging are crucial to the success of cheese. This means offering variety in flavours and formats, correctly merchandised in stores of all different sizes and with excellent availability.”
Gregory namechecks Leerdammer Toastie, Laughing Cow Light with Blue Cheese and Laughing Cow Light with Emmental as product developments that have performed well.
“At Bel UK, we have enjoyed 6.9% value growth in the last 12 months (according to Nielsen figures to the end end of April) driven by the fact that we offer a range of interesting flavours and formats, all backed by significant investment in marketing our brands to the right target audiences,” he said.
“Investing into brands has a key role to play in driving up value in the category, and Bel UK remains firmly committed to that investment, even in a tough trading environment that is often dominated by deep promotions on cheddar.”
He reports that, over the last few years, independent and symbol group operators have been willing to stock a wider variety of cheeses.
“Their eyes have been opened to the growth potential that exists outside cheddar,” said Gregory, “which in many cases simply satisfies a distress purchase mission.
“Our plan in 2014 is to encourage smaller retailers to dip their toes in the water and begin to expand their repertoire.”
• Dairy giant Arla Foods says that snack pot formats and innovative flavours are creating a new generation of cottage cheese-lovers. The company produces more than half of the cottage cheese eaten in the UK.
It’s a Europe-wide trend. Across the continent Arla has seen production increase by 111% since 2009.
The company says cottage cheese is beneficial for healthy living because it contains more protein than a standard yoghurt, with around 10g protein per 100g.
It’s also a great source of calcium for healthy teeth and bones, and is rich in B vitamins, Riboflavin and B2, Arla says.