Smile, and say ‘convenient!’

Sliced and grated lines grow ahead of the market as cheese fans keep buying and increase visits to c-stores

DAIRY Crest says its Cathedral City is the UK’s number-one cheese brand, now worth £281m and growing ahead of the market, up 9% by value in GB and by considerably more (15%) in Scotland in the last year.
Quoting Kantar research, the firm says Cathedral City is bigger than its next four competitor brands combined.
This year the firm launched Cathedral City Spreadable. Quoting Nielsen research, it says the total spreadable cheese market (excluding soft white cheese) is now worth £139m and the category is in value and volume growth (up 1.0% and 1.5% respectively). The adult spreads category is said to be showing especially strong growth (up 6.4% by value and 7.3% by volume).


IN theory cheese should do well when times are tough. Generally speaking people prepare more meals at home and take their lunch with them to work. And cheese has indeed fared fairly well in recent times. Figures and analysis from two of the UK’s dairy category giants, Dairy Crest and Arla, show cheese sales in growth at a time when food sales overall are in decline.

At Dairy Crest, which has the major cheese brand Cathedral City in its portfolio, shopper marketing director Adam Mehegan, quoting IRI figures to September this year, said the total cheese market is worth £2.3bn and growing by 2% year on year. The dominant segment is everyday cheese, valued at £1.2bn. Interestingly, some of the fastest-growing types of everyday cheese are lines intended to be convenient. Pre-sliced cheese sales are up 10% year on year and grated cheese sales are up 6%. Block cheese performance is steady year on year.
The Scottish market is worth £208m, Scottish sales are up 1.3% year on year and sub-category trends broadly reflect the wider market. Speciality, snacking and sliced everyday cheese products are showing higher growth
Cheese is doing especially well in convenience outlets where sales are worth £327m and growing by 4.4% year on year. Everyday cheeses, with 57% of sales, are more dominant in c-stores than in total grocery, where the figure is 53%. Some 75% of pre-packed cheese purchases in convenience stores are of Cheddar (including sliced and grated Cheddar products).
With the exception of everyday block cheese where sales are static, all cheese market segments are in growth in the convenience channel with the star performers being: recipe cheeses, up 15.7%; snack cheese lines, up 11.4%; and sliced everyday cheese, up 13.5%. Everyday grated cheese is also performing well, sales are up 8.2% year on year.
At Arla Foods, senior brand manager Katie Richards, quoting Nielsen data, reported very similar trends. Cheese remains incredibly popular with UK consumers, with 92% of adults saying that they eat cheese and a very significant 43% saying they eat cheese “most days”, she said.

Arla Foods notes that convenience cheese packs, such as its Anchor sliced Cheddar and grated cheddar are showing sales growth. But the firm also advises retailers to stock ingredient and speciality cheeses.

Both Dairy Crest and Arla have tips designed to help c-store operators maximise cheese sales and shopper satisfaction.
At Dairy Crest Adam Mehegan said stores should:
• Stock a core range of best sellers.
• Include products from each cheese segment to satisfy a broad spectrum of shoppers, especially at Christmas when shoppers are looking for something a little bit different.
• Block products according to consumer use (sandwiches, cooking etc).
• Use ‘beacon brands’ to signpost the fixture.
• Block products and packs of each brand together, where possible.
At Arla Katie Richards said stores should, first an foremost, get the range right – by covering the basics and ensuring their ranges include products to serve different shopper demands. So, she suggested, stores should:
• Stock everyday block, grated and sliced Cheddar cheese, as well as a block cheese from other cheese areas if they’re popular in the store’s location.
• Stock a range of snacking brands for kids and packed lunches.
• Stock speciality cheeses, particularly at key seasonal events such as Christmas.
• Stock ingredient cheeses including soft white cheese such as Philadelphia.
• Stock healthier lines such as lighter Cheddar or cottage cheese.
She also recommended that retailers attempt to: persuade their customers to “trade up” by highlighting ingredients and speciality cheeses that are in growth, including Parmesan, mozzarella and brie; inspire customers to use cheese for more occasions such as cooking, lunch and snacking, by providing recipe ideas using point of sale materials such as shelf barkers; and introduce POS materials to brighten up the chilled display space in general.
Chiller merchandising is important, she said, and she suggested retailers:
• Merchandise and block cheese sub-categories and brands together to ensure stand out.
• Provide more space to best-selling lines and ensure they are kept in stock.
• Pay attention to customers’ purchasing habits and respond accordingly.
• Review EPOS data and remove slow-selling lines.
• Adjust stock to suit the time of year and take advantage of seasonal periods. With that in mind store operators should consider stocking more speciality cheeses in the run-up to Christmas, lighter cheeses or cottage cheese variants at the beginning of the year or before summer, and sliced cheese during the warmer months for barbecues and picnics.