Recently-released USDA data shows that in 2022, cheese consumption in the US hit an all-time high, with around 42lb of cheese consumed per person. This is almost double the amount consumed in 1980 (21.9lb) and follows a long-term trend - in the past decade, domestic per capita consumption of cheese has increased 17.1%.
The data also revealed that more non-American cheese – such as European-style cheese like mozzarella, Swiss and types of blue cheese - was consumed in 2022 compared with any other year on record.
Wisconsin, the top cheese-producing state in the US, produced around 3.5 billion pounds of cheese in 2022, with 94 of the state’s 118 producers having manufactured at least one type of specialty cheese – including Hispanic and European-type varieties - that year.
It's no surprise then that Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin/Wisconsin Cheese has suggested that one of the top consumer trends in 2024 is likely to revolve around consumers’ growing interest in international flavors and unexpected blends. Citing Innova’s Top Trends in Flavors for 2024 report, Wisconsin Cheese states that 22% of consumers globally indicate that they would like to see more local cuisines from other regions. “Adventure is back on the radar as people return to travel and embrace global cuisine experiences,” tin the report. “Food and drink shoppers have a blooming interest in international flavors and unexpected blends.
“Social media is also impacting food buying behaviors more than ever. Viral trends like the #GirlDinner and parmesan espresso martinis encourage consumers to seek out new flavors and get adventurous with food combinations.”
Wisconsin Cheese has also suggested that food can be a major factor in fostering close connections. The trade organization says that according to a survey, 92% of people value experiences over physical gifts, with food-related experiencing a top category. “Now more than ever, consumers value close connections with family, friends and their community,” Wisconsin Cheese claims.
At-home cooking will also remain a key trend in 2024, according to the report. Citing Innova Market Insights research, there has been a 30% increase globally of consumers that eat at home rather than out, with 24% of those prioritizing spending on special food and drink to consume at home.
“People are opting to stay home and create special moments right where they are,” Wisconsin Cheese said. “Habits we adopted in 2020, like shopping online, maximizing our dollars and eating at home, will continue as we move into 2024.
“From craft-your-own pizza night to building cheese boards to baking a seemingly advanced recipe, consumers want to create an elevated dining-in experience.”
With shoppers prioritizing spending for special food occasions, a trend toward mindful indulgence has emerged, the report claims. “One in two consumers prefer to treat themselves with everyday moments of experience-based happiness – whether it be laughing with a friend, taking a walk outside or indulging in a savory snack,” the report said.
Meanwhile, traditional or nostalgic flavors would continue to be key drivers in purchasing decisions – according to Innova research, 44% of food and beverage choices are most influenced by these types of flavors.
Balancing indulgence with environmental concerns will remain top-of-the-mind for shoppers in 2024, Wisconsin Cheese highlighted in the report. “Survey respondents across 11 global markets agree that they care a lot more about sourcing ingredients in their foods than they did a year ago,” the trade organization said, citing Innova Markets Insights data. “Products that mention how they or their ingredients were farmed or grown, along with benefits of the sourcing or farming practice are also preferred.”
Consumer trends also support investment in more sustainable practices. Adecco USA data cited by the report shows that consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, buy locally-sourced items including produce, and choose recycled or sustainable material products.
Suzanne Fanning, chief marketing officer for Wisconsin Cheese and senior vice-president of Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, commented: “The most successful businesses in the world are the ones that truly understand their consumers. "What people care about and what drives them should always be top of mind for marketers. That's why we constantly ask questions, review data, and learn as much as possible. Recently we've uncovered five key trends that dominated our research and provide great insight for what's to come in 2024 ranging from the power of connections to global health.”
The full report can be accessed online via www.wisconsindairy.org/cheesetrends.