Innovative regional cheeses please UK consumers

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cheese

UK consumers are increasingly patriotic about
their cheese, as regional British varieties of the product are
beginning to outsell continental rivals in the country, according
to new research out today.

Between 2004 and 2006 cheeses like Lancashire, Cheshire and Red Leicester posted a 16 per cent increase in sales to £220 million as shoppers increasingly bought local over concerns over ethical and environmental concerns, according to consumer analyst Mintel. The research highlights in a need for innovation in cheese production, with UK processors benefitting from the addition of fruits, liquors and even curry to their products to spice up consumer demand, according to Mintel. The news will be a massive boost to UK cheese makers, as the industry in Europe faces growing uncertainty over the future of the product. Though some of mainland Europe's most famous fromage like Brie, Camembert and Emmental continues to post increased sale volumes in the country, patriotic Brits were hurting sales of the foreign cheeses. Mintel said that the market value of continental cheese declined by as much as 7 per cent between 2004 and 2006 to £340m. Mintel's senior analyst David Bird stated that continental cheeses' appeal as gourmet alternatives to the UK's products were waning along with their value. "Today many continental varieties are now more an everyday staple than an occasional treat​", he stated. "This has inevitably brought prices down and as a result market value has declined, despite rising volume sales."​ However, while fruitier cheeses or those with a hint of curry may be carrying more favour with UK cheese lovers, it is still the faithful Cheddar cheese that dominates the market. Cheddars made both within the UK and abroad held a 52 per cent market share last year. On more comparative terms, between 2004 and 2006, sales grew by seven per cent to £985m. With the market for Cheddar expected to continue growing this year, Mintel added that sales could this year reach an all time high of over £1bn. Bird suggested that while innovation was key to winning over this new brand of cheese connoisseur, UK consumers still get sentimental for some traditions in cheese production. "Cheddars have clearly stood the test of time and are now still very much a British staple,"​ he stated. "The market has done well to see growth despite heavy discounting and many buy-one-get-one-free offers in the supermarkets,"​ Reclaiming their former favour amongst UK consumers could be hugely important for the wider European cheese industry though, with strong growth expected in the country during 2007, Mintel added. In 2006, cheese sales in Britain reached £1.9 billion, with the figure expected to rise to about £1.93bn this year, according to the report. This optimism has not been matched by some of Europe's leading cheese processors, with decrased prices for the product, leading to further reductions in supply. Just last week, Arla Foods announced plan to cut cheese production by 6,200 tonnes until the new year in a drive to better deal with a dwindling global supply of raw milk. The group, which is one of Europe's leading dairy processors, said that between 70 to 80 of its employees would be affected by the cuts to be made to four of its Danish plants and one site in Sweden.

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