Shoppers will often turn away from their usual grocery stores when purchasing specialty cheese, according to the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s recent Snacking Opportunities: Building Better Snacks report, which was done in association with The Hartman Group.
However, letting consumers in on the story of the product may help sales.
Knowing the story can help
IDDBA’s report suggests ensuring there are a variety of fresh, unique items and opportunities to learn more about different cheeses. This can be done via a write-up on the cheese or even having cheese specialists or farmers come into the store to explain the fine details of each product.
Alan Hiebert, senior education coordinator at IDDBA, told DairyReporter that he thinks telling the story of cheese can be a “huge” selling point.
“That really does resonate with a lot people,” he said. “Just being able to meet that [farmer], get a little bit of the back story, see pictures of the farm … what we’re seeing right now is that people are really interested in knowing the story of where something comes from.”
While big companies will stay on the scene, Hiebert said some IDDBA members believe processed cheese and cheeses without clean labels are seeing some losses versus locally grown or premium cheese.
“That’s bigger trend that we’ve been seeing for a little while now,” he said.
Aside from the backstory and experience, how can companies ensure their cheese is selling? Hiebert said looking at the trends will be important, meaning selling cheese as a positive source or protein and offering a “diversity of flavor” to consumers. It is also important to ensure consumers have an idea of what the cheese tastes like.
"Cheese is intimidating. A lot of people feel about cheese how they feel about wine. They don’t know enough about cheese to know what they like, so they’ll just stick with what they know"
Alan Hiebert, IDDBA
“From a retail stand point, I’d say one of the best ways to get people to buy cheese is just make sure you’re sampling it,” he said. “Let people taste it. Cheese is intimidating. A lot of people feel about cheese how they feel about wine. They don’t know enough about cheese to know what they like, so they’ll just stick with what they know, which might be cheddar.”
“It goes a lot further than that, but education really is the key. You have to tell people what’s out there.”
Another way to get consumers to make an outside-the-box purchase is to put a cheese into a snack pack. IDDBA’s report noted the success of Starbucks’ Protein Bistro Box, which includes cheese, fruit and bread, among other things. Hiebert said this is a good way to get people to try something they normally would not.
“I know a lot of stores are reluctant to package things,” he said. “Cutting and wrapping in the store is a pain to do it really small, but that could help.”