Cheese Trends: Global Market Overview

See how the cheese category is developing around the globe, including dairy and non-dairy cheese innovations and consumer preferences

May 10, 2024 – Innova’s 360 research into global cheese trends reveals the latest market shifts and consumer insights, paving the way for brands to make intelligent decisions for their next moves in the category.

Market Sizing and Trends

The cheese market has been steadily increasing throughout the past five years, growing by 3% in sales and 2% in volume. Innova’s cheese trend research indicates growth to continue at a similar rate in the years to come. When analyzing for per capita consumption, most of the top countries are in Europe. Greece has by far the most per capita consumption, followed by France, Estonia, Finland, and Denmark.

The US dominates the cheese market in sales, while Germany, France, Russia, and Italy trail behind. The fastest growing countries in cheese sales are China, Iran, Vietnam, and Indonesia, with China and Iran projected to have the fastest cheese sales growth in the coming years.

Non-dairy cheese, a growing subcategory of dairy products, still represents a tiny portion of overall sales, representing only 2% of cheese sales in the US, Germany, and the UK. However, Innova’s cheese trend research projects continual growth in sales in the next five years.

Top Companies and Brands

The cheese category is fragmented, with private labels having a notable presence in new product launches. The most active branded manufacturer of dairy cheese launches is Groupe Lactalis. Groupe Lactalis is a France-based company, and cheese sales accounted for 40% of its revenue in 2022. The company closed its purchase of the Kraft Heinz natural cheese business in 2021, and acquired Italian cheesemaker Ambrosi in 2022.

Recent corporate social responsibility efforts include announcing a partnership in December 2023 with five other major global companies and the Environmental Defense Fund to disclose dairy-related methane emissions and work to limit them.

Most of the top innovators for non-dairy cheese are branded plant-based consumer products companies and dairy manufacturers. The Dutch manufacturer Upfield has had the most non-dairy product introductions tracked since 2019. The company claims to be the world’s largest plant-based consumer packaged foods company. It includes Unilever’s margarine and spreads business spun off in 2018, and added Violife plant-based cheese in 2020.

Innovation efforts include strategic partnerships with US-based Change Foods, which is “pioneering the development of a unique precision fermentation process to create plant-based nature-identical dairy casein protein, the fundamental building block of all dairy cheeses.” The company is also partnering with Israel-based Alfred’s, which has “developed an innovative process to improve the taste, functionality and nutritional profile of plant-based cheese.”

Cheese Trends

Consumer Insights in Global Cheese Market

Cheese remains a popular choice for consumers around the globe, with almost 60% stating that they have purchased cheese in the past six months. Cheese trend research indicates that the demographics that eat dairy and non-dairy cheese are quite different. Dairy cheese tends to be eaten by older suburban traditionalists, while non-dairy cheese appeals to young urban professionals, showcasing the importance of targeted marketing.

Most consumers that eat cheese tend to eat it at least once a week. Additionally, more consumers increased than decreased their cheese consumption in the past year. Perceived healthiness, lifestyle changes, and more variety are helping to drive increased cheese consumption.

Consumers typically eat cheese during main meals. However, non-dairy cheese is more likely to be eaten as a morning or afternoon snack. They also say that taste, health, and convenience are the top reasons why they eat cheese. Non-dairy cheese specifically has 20% of consumers saying they eat it because it is something new and different, and for environmental or ethical reasons.

Real or natural ingredients, and product safety are the most influential claims on dairy cheese, and for non-dairy cheese, organic and low or no fat are most influential. High protein is also a popular cheese trend and is among the top ten most frequently cited influential claims for both dairy and non-dairy cheese.

New Product Launch Trends

Launch activity of non-dairy cheese is growing at a faster pace than dairy cheese. However non-dairy cheese still represents a small fraction of global cheese launches. Semi-hard/hard and processed dairy-cheese accounts for nearly 60% of new cheese product entries. Europe is the most active region in cheese product launches, with West Europe and North America the strongest for non-dairy cheese launches.

Plant-based and vegan claims are unsurprisingly common on dairy-free cheeses, but gluten-free claims are also seen on almost 60% of dairy-free cheeses. Non-dairy cheeses additionally carry clean ingredient claims more often, such as no additives or preservatives, GMO free, and organic. Emergent non-dairy cheese claims include palm oil-free, probiotic, and high fiber. Ethical packaging claims can be seen on both types of cheeses.

Mozzarella represents a growing portion of both dairy and non-dairy cheese entries. Cream cheese, gouda, and parmesan also saw more non-dairy cheese launches. Regarding flavors, fruit, herbs, smoked and roasted, spices and seeds, and vegetable are popular. Among the most common ingredients in non-dairy cheeses, edible oils and thickeners are growing the fastest. Coconut oil is the main driver for the increase of edible oils in these products, and modified starches, locust bean gum, and maltodextrin are driving thickener use growth. In dairy-cheese, pasteurized milk and cow milk use has been slowly rising.

What’s Next in Global Cheese Trends?

Due to inflation pressure, a substantial number of consumers cite budget changes as the top reason for decreasing cheese eating. Brands and private labels should consider the feasibility of creating value products for these consumers.

While over half of consumers globally claim that they are willing to try plant-based versions of similar foods, non-dairy cheese penetration remains low. Companies can invest in new technologies and studies to improve the taste and texture of their non-dairy cheese products, as well as utilize more natural ingredients with nutritional value to further entice consumers.

Consumers are also looking for everyday moments of happiness and smaller treats, but cheese consumption trends towards main mealtimes. Cheese-snacking occasions can be further emphasized through launches of more formats, flavors, and packaging designed for snacking occasions at home and on the go.

Finally, few cheese entries cite claims about environmental, animal, or human social responsibility. Meanwhile, consumers are increasingly interested in acting on conscious living. Ethical claims on packaging can be expanded to help remedy this. Claims about existing corporate responsibility initiatives, such as grass-fed or free-range, carbon neutral or renewable energy efforts, and fair trade or human cause charity programs can all facilitate further consumer interest.


This article is based on our report, “Global Dairy & Non-Dairy Cheese Innovation & Preferences.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
You can do this by either booking a demo or using our Contact Form.

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