The world’s cheese market continues to evolve as well as its trends. The forces driving these changes and trends include changing consumer habits and attitudes to innovative product development, offering many opportunities for cheese enthusiasts and manufacturers.
Drivers of Cheese Consumption
Taste and health remain the primary reasons people indulge in cheese and 33% of consumers around the world consider it a staple in their diets. Non-dairy cheese launches peaked in 2021 and although it remains very small in terms of volume, there is an increasing number of consumers drawn to non-dairy cheese for environmental and ethical reasons and because they see it as a healthier alternative.
Cheese Consumption Trends
In both dairy and non-dairy cheese consumption trends, there are more consumers increasing than decreasing consumption. But there are significantly more likely to be consumers increasing consumption of non-dairy cheese than dairy cheese. This is particularly notable in Spain, where 38% of consumers are increasing consumption of non-dairy cheese but only 15% are increasing dairy cheese consumption.
Purchase Drivers and Claims
Taste or flavor is the most likely factor to influence consumers’ purchasing decision when buying cheese or non-dairy cheese. Clean label claims are also important around the world, alongside product safety.
Protein claims are more likely to be an influence when buying dairy cheese than non-dairy cheese, while fat-related claims are of equal influence across both types of cheese. Protein claims are particularly influential in Indonesia, where 38% say they are influenced by such claims when buying cheese, and 31% when buying non-dairy cheese. This compares to just 9% of Italians who are influenced by these claims when buying either type of cheese. Increasing the protein content of non-dairy cheese is becoming more evident.
Cost is of equal influence to health when buying non-dairy cheese. Indeed, in some markets, health aspects are the most influential factor when buying non-dairy cheese.
While companies are using flavor to add interest and value to their new products, unflavored cheese remains the most popular globally, with product developers more likely to launch an unflavored than flavored cheese.
Top 10 Cheese Flavors
Of the top 10 most popular flavors used in cheese globally in the five years ending Q3 2022, five are common across all the major regions: herbs, smoked, strawberry, garlic, and chili.
Chili Flavor Trends in Cheese
Chili is particularly popular in North America, but here as well as in Latin America the use of specific chili flavors such as jalapeno, habanero, and chipotle are more widely used than generic chili flavor, as is the case in the other major regions. However, this trend for using more specific chili is starting to occur in other regions, particularly West Europe, and is a trend that is likely to continue as consumers look for more authentic flavors.
Regional Flavors Vary
There are some other regional variations in the most popular flavors, such as paprika in Europe, cranberry in North America and black pepper in Asia Pacific. Cheese in Asia is also more likely to include fish flavors.
Demand for cheese alternatives will continue to grow, but taste and texture are often the reason for purchases and non-purchase. Watch for more use of traditional cheese production methods like cultures and aging, precision fermentation, and higher protein content. Dairy companies are increasingly pressured to improve their sustainability records, making sustainable dairy production increasingly important.
This article is based on our report, “Dairy & Non-Dairy Cheese.”
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