The firm, based in Amersfoort, said that Milner had been available for around 20 years, and after its launch in Holland and Belgium was thereafter sold in Greece (10 years ago) and Spain (2).
But FC said that the brand’s image, which reflects a 51 product range, varied widely between countries and that it lacked a consistent brand identity.
For instance, in The Netherland, Milner was largely associated with dieting and mainly eaten by women, whereas in Greece it was eaten by families.
The pattern consumption is mirrored in Spain, FC said, where the principal market for the cheese is young families.
To ensure a consistent new brand position, FC said it had decided to update the Milner packaging design to “radiate vitality” and lend the cheese international appeal as a product suitable for all consumers.
Bold packaging redesign
The firm said this was the first time the firm had taken such a bold step with a cheese brand, and marked an end to a wide variety of different packaging options for the brand.
Formerly, in The Netherlands and Belgium, each Milner variety came in its own colour packaging, while in Spain and Greece packaging was blue.
But the new light blue design conveyed the message that the cheese was made from semi-skimmed milk, said FC, where this colour reflected consumer recognition of its use in such milk packaging.
The new packaging – rolled-out across supermarkets in Greece, Belgium and The Netherlands, with a Spanish launch due in early 2012 – also includes ‘seal fresh’ containers that were easy to open, reseal and improve product freshness, the company claimed.
This reflects a trend towards more convenient packaging for cheese products, flagged-up by Mintel in a report on the sector in June.
A FC spokeswoman told DairyReporter.com that "convenience and freshness" were key drivers in packaging innovation.
An ageing population imposed different packaging needs, while there was also a need to reduce the environmental impact of packaging, she added.
She said: "Packaging innovation also contributes to brand equity: the new reclosable Milner packaging creates a large consumer pull and brings differentiation to the brand, both in freshness but also an up-to-date image."
June research by the Dutch Dairy Association (NZO) found that consumer cheese consumption in The Netherlands was continuing to grow, with an average yearly consumption of 18.6kg in 2010.
Snacking cheese was now an established practice, the research found, while cooking usage was growing. Favourite types include Dutch Gouda, while low-fat cheeses had also gained popularity in recent years.
Cheese consumption drivers
The FC spokeswoman said that low-fat cheese demand in the EU depended on attitude, the role cheese plays in different diets and economic circumstances.
"For instance, in Belgium, low fat cheese demand is low. This is the general attitude versus low fat or 'light' products that applies to almost all food categories. Full taste and variety is leading."
The spokeswoman added that in Greece, for instance, there was a high per capita consumption of cheese but also one of the highest rates of obesity, with lower-fat cheeses developing fast, prior to the economic crisis that turned this growth around.
"Consumers turn to cheaper alternatives and postpone health-conscious habits to better times," she added.
Recent Mintel research shows that EU consumers tend to prefer regional cheese varieties, and despite health concerns leading to market gains, low-fat options still have some way to go to make inroads in countries such as France.
Assessing that nation’s 2010 cheese market, the Mintel analysts concluded: “Standard, pasteurized cheese is most commonly used in France, with healthier versions such as low-fat and organic lagging far behind.
“Low-fat translates for many to low-taste; and consumers are often looking for stronger, not weaker, taste.”