Spaniards eating more cheese than ever

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheese, Milk

Spanish cheese consumption is likely to be 130 per cent higher this
year than it was 20 years ago, an increase driven by the efforts of
industry association Fenil to promote the dairy product as a
versatile ingredient.

According to the latest data from Fenil​ (Federacion Nacional de Industrias Lacteas) cited by the Consumer.es​ website, cheese consumption in Spain is likely to be around 10.2 kilos per person in 2004, compared to just 4.4 kilos per capita in 1984.

With consumption growing rapidly, production has also had to gather pace, with cheese output in 2004 set to reach 298,000 tons, the Fenil data showed, a 90 per cent increase on the 1984 level.

Miguel Angel Vazquez de Prada, director general of Fenil, said that the association had worked hard over the last 20 years to expand the consumption of cheese. "Cheese was very rarely used as an ingredient in other dishes and desserts were always based on fruit,"​ he said, underlining just how far cheese and other dairy products had come over the period.

He said that 20 years ago, cheese was consumed mostly during social occasions in Spain - as part of a meal among friends, for example - but that in countries such as Greece or France, it was consumed almost every day and at most mealtimes.

But through a process of targeted marketing and communication, helped by the major quality advances made by producers over the period, cheese consumption has surged ahead since the early 1980s, and Spanish cheese now accounts for 67 per cent of total food consumption there, according to Fenil.

Fenil's data do not include processed cheese, but otherwise cover a wide of cheeses made from sheep, cows' and goats' milk, as well as mixtures thereof.

Cheese made from cows' milk accounts for 43.5 per cent of the total, while sheep milk cheese takes 12.2 per cent and goat's milk cheese some 5.4 per cent. Cheese made from a mixture of milk accounts for 38.9 per cent of the total.

Part of the reason for the major increase in cheese consumption is that fact that there are now 18 denominations of origin for cheese in Spain, a reflection of the quality improvements which have been made and also of the growing importance of home-produced cheese there.

Of these denominations, manchego is the most widely consumed, followed by Mahon, tetilla and Idiazabal, Fenil said.

But if consumption has risne rapidly over the last 20 years, there is little cause for Spanish cheesemakers to rest on their laurels. Spain comes in 15th and last place in terms of per capita cheese consumption within the EU, even though it is the seventh largest producer.

Greece tops the list in terms of consumption per person - the Greeks eat more than 28 kilos each per annum - followed by France, with 25 kilos.

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