What more can be said about cheese?
One of the oldest and most ubiquitous foods around the world, cheese is one of the ultimate category killers in foodbev – it can complement a meal as an indulgent, savory addition or spice up a burger when crafted with ghost peppers or other fiery ingredients. It bubbles in hot pots, features in fondue, it’s spreadable, sliceable, spearable, sold in bricks, slices, rounds, and rectangles.
People eat cheese for all sorts of reasons; this year, however, taste and health were the primary ones as 33% of consumers around the world considered it a necessary staple in their diets. And though non-dairy cheese launches peaked in 2021, more consumers are drawn to it for environmental, ethical, and dietary reasons as a healthy (and often tasteful) alternative to traditional dairy.
That’s all according to the latest data from Innova Market Insights, which also noted that increasing concerns about food provenance have given rise to more legislation around the globe for clean labels and increased transparency – and its in-store effect for consumers, simplicity of purchase and peace of mind – in CPG.
No matter how one cuts the cheese, the market continues to grow. According to data from Fortune Business Insights, the U.S. cheese market is projected to peak at almost $60 billion in 2029, growing at a CAGR of 4.6%. That’s a lot of cheddar.
30 Gs of Cheese
One hot trend sweeping consumer diets right now is 30G, or the idea that most if not all meals should feature 30 grams of protein to promote energy, well-being, and suppress appetite.
To that end, Innova reports that protein claims are more likely to be in play when buying dairy cheese than non-dairy cheese. Fat-related claims, however, hold equal sway over consumers across both types of cheese, and increasing the protein content of non-dairy cheese is becoming a more prominent goal of many non-dairy manufacturers.
When it comes to cost, both types of cheeses hold equal sway.
Choosing the Big Cheese(s) – Finding Favor with Flavor
Flavoring cheese with everything from pepper to chilis, fruits, figs, and more is one of the great pleasures of browsing a good deli section of a grocer, retailer, or specialty shop. Unflavored cheese holds the crown around the world for the most popular type, speaking volumes about the versatility of a good cheese.
It’s said that variety is the spice of life, however, and that sentiment certainly applies to cheese.
Of the top 10 most popular flavors used in cheese around the world ending in Q3 2022, five are found across all major regions:
- Smoked cheese
- Cheese with herbs
- Cheese with strawberry
- Garlic cheese
- Chili cheese
Chili is particularly popular in North America, where swift access to some of the world’s best jalapeno, habanero, and chipotle peppers makes for a rich infusion of heat into cheddar, brie, bleu, and other cheeses. Western Europe is also beginning to really embrace that cheesy heat as consumers have more increased access to global flavors, textures, and styles. Paprika is popular in Europe, cranberry in North America, and black pepper in the Pacific/eastern regions of Asia, where fruit- and fish-infused cheeses are thriving.
Taste and texture dominate as the top two reasons for purchasing or passing on cheese. As culturing and aging processes continue to evolve and new techniques such as precision fermentation continue to refine, higher protein content and even more sustainably sourced cheese will be available in 2024.
2024 Cheese Trends from Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin
Wisconsin is the State of Cheese, and Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin – a nonprofit trade group that promotes its dairy products – recently released its 2024 Cheese Trends report.
The five macrotrends per the report are:
- Cultivating Connection
- At-home Culinary Haven
- Mindful Indulgence
- A Constant Eye on Global Health
- Flavor Frenzy
As restaurant prices continue to outpace inflation, eating at home has grown 30% this year as e-commerce, pinching pennies, and cultivating connection with friends and family continues to help drive cheese sales, prompting at-home chefs, parents, and more to continue to fashion everything from cheese-laden casseroles to weekly pizza night. Meanwhile, mindful indulgence has seen an uptick in consumer response as more are prompted to enjoy themselves – just a little bit – instead of going cold turkey on alcohol, snacks, and yes, cheese.
Zooming out a bit, consumers are more concerned than ever with the provenance of their food, clean labels, and transparent branding (and brand stories) regarding the products they buy and brands they support. Federal and state regulatory developments will help consumers more thoughtfully engage in global health when they decide how to spend their dollars on cheeses bursting with global flavors.