Say Cheese: Report Reveals Biggest Cheese-Loving Nations


Cheese is never far from the minds of consumers in Amsterdam and Paris, according to new research from Mintel. The findings serve as a reminder that cheese is beloved from Los Angeles to New York, too.

While Mintel’s findings indicated The Netherlands is the top cheese-loving country, the market research firm also found that 96% of Americans said they eat cheddar cheese. And, Americans Google-search the term “cheese” more than any nation – an average of 6.6 times a month, per person.

According to the USDA, global cheese consumption is projected to reach a record high of 21.6 million metric tons this year. Cheese consumption is up 5.7% compared to five years ago. Taste is a top reason why consumers eat cheese, according to analysis by The Food Institute, as well as Innova Market Insights.

“There’s more variety than ever available in the U.S. with a strong specialty and artisan cheese industry. This variety gives consumers the chance to explore lots of different types of cheese and enjoy them,” said Chad Galer, VP of product innovation and food safety at Dairy Management Inc., in an email to The Food Institute.

“Convenience has become the key marketing mover with cheese,” said Steve Funk, senior cheese technologist with Nelson-Jameson.

“Just look at the cheese you can now buy sliced, shredded, grated, shaved, or cubed compared to 5 or 10 years ago. The emergence of new varieties and unique flavors make it more appetizing and attractive.”

Statistics back such claims. Gouda experienced 2023 retail volume that was 33% above 2018 levels. Meanwhile, mozzarella posted significant growth at retail each of the past two years.

By analyzing various data sources like stats from the UN, Mintel’s new report uncovered the world’s top cheese-loving nations and gave each a score out of 100. The Netherlands earned the top spot by a long shot, with a score of 76.8. The northwestern European country imports more than $14 worth of cheese per person each year.

“Cheese is – and has been for centuries – part of The Netherlands’ culture,” Galer explained. “Because cheese was so important to their culture and well-being, rules and laws, along with markets to sell cheese, were established as early as the 1400s.”

The world’s top six cheese-loving nations, according to Mintel’s findings, included the following:

  1. Netherlands (76.8 score)
  2. France (39.3)
  3. Belgium (39.1)
  4. S. (31.7)
  5. Austria (30.7)
  6. United Kingdom (30.3)

Other noteworthy findings from Mintel included:

  • There are 523 cheeses which originate in the U.S., making it the leading country in that metric.
  • France is the largest importer of cheese in the world, spending a total of $374 million per year in trade value.
  • Mexico is the top cheese importer in terms of weight, at 56 million kg per year.

“With the majority of Americans saying they have not heard of cheeses like paneer and halloumi but 96 percent eating cheddar, the relatively low trade value could speak to more local tastes,” Mintel’s report noted. “It seems that Americans prefer to consume their own cheese rather than imported varieties.”

Nevertheless, American restaurants, retailers, and CPG companies can use cheese to enhance menu items or product lines, industry experts note.

“Because of its versatility and wide flavor range, cheese can be used to provide new flavor experiences,” the Dairy Management executive said. “Businesses can look to parts of their menu where cheese is under-indexed – chicken sandwiches are a great example. In addition, utilizing cheese to top more soup dishes to add flavor and creaminess is another opportunity.”

“It’s all about flavor, creating new varieties of cheeses, and adding new ingredients to recipes,” Funk said. “New cheeses are coming out regularly. … It’s more a part of what we do as ingredient suppliers than ever before. [There are] no more boring cheeses.”