Britain's taste for cheddar cheese matures

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cheese, Milk, Uk

Consumers in the UK are trading up on their favourite cheese,
cheddar, according to new figures, eating into private label sales
and offering strong opportunities for producers.

Branded cheddar sales rose 10 per cent in value to more than £341m for the year ended 10 September, according to new figures from the UK Milk Development Council (MDC).

Growth in mature cheddar also offset declines in mild and medium varieties, suggesting more consumers are learning to love strong tasting cheese, and the higher price that goes with it.

Evidence that consumers in the UK have continued to trade up for their cheese offers producers new opportunities to increase earnings. More than half of cheese eaten in the UK every year is cheddar.

Private label sales of standard cheddar fell six per cent in volume and 2 per cent in value during the same period, although continued to dominate the sector with sales worth £400m, the MDC said.

The news appears to support the recent decision by Dairy Crest, one of the leading UK dairy groups, to sell off its retail cheese division.

The firm's Cathedral City cheese recently confirmed its position as Britons' favourite cheddar brand, increasing sales by 17 per cent in value and 11 per cent in volume for the full year ended March.

"This sale allows Dairy Crest to focus on accelerating the development of Cathedral City and its other cheese brands,"​ said chief executive Drummond Hall. Dairy Crest's share price rose to record highs in the aftermath.

Europe's dairy industry has pin-pointed cheese generally as a crucial market in the drive to develop and sell more added value dairy products.

Figures from the MDC show that UK consumers have bought an extra 9,700 tonnes of pre-packed cheese from retailers over the last year. Sales of loose cheese dropped by 3,000 tonnes, but MDC analysts said money could still be made from the growing popularity of premium, speciality cheeses sold on delicatessen counters.

Their report also indicated health trends would play a significant role in the cheese sector, as they have for other dairy products like ice cream and butter. Sales of low fat cheese were thought to have driven a 6.6 per cent rise in territorial (non-cheddar) cheese.

A recent report from Mintel​, a market research group, highlighted significant potential on the UK cheese market. Britons eat around 30g of cheese every day, compared to the 50g European average.

Mintel said manufacturers were re-drawing market categories, dividing products into "everyday value"​ and "discovery"​ instead of traditional segmentation based on product recipe and place of origin.

Related topics: Markets, Cheese

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