The American Dairy Association's "Ahh, the power of Cheese[tm]" advertising campaign this summer focuses on snacking. And, by looking at the number and variety of snacking cheeses that debuted early in the season, it appears that cheese marketers are hoping to cash in on the promotion, and of course, on the fact that cheese is a highly nutritious snack that can be one (or more) of their three daily dairy foods servings.

All types of snack foods are popular in summer, as consumers are more on the go during the warm months than during any other time of year. By making cheese more convenient and in portable sizes, cheese becomes one of the best choices of a healthful snack.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association's Cheese Market Research Project, which is based on data provided by Information Resources Inc., string/stick cheese dollar sales were the same in 2002, as compared to 2001, controlling 3.5% of the $7.5 billion retail market. Cubed cheese, which has only become popular in the past few years, was up 2.1%, with a mere 0.8% share. Interestingly, the "All Other Forms" category, which excludes chunk/loaf, grated/crumble, shredded, sliced and spreads, was up 7.2%, controlling 3.5% share. This category contains many of the newer snacking varieties of cheese.

Land O'Lakes, Arden Hills, Minn., citing the fact that the snack cheese segment is growing nearly five times faster than the total cheese category, according to data from ACNielsen for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 30, 2002, relaunched its individually wrapped, single-serve portions of natural cheese under the brand Land O Lakes[r] Snack'N Cheese To-Go![tm] The line comes in five varieties (Chedarella[r], Co-Jack[r], medium Cheddar, mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack) and is sold through traditional supermarkets as well club stores. According to LOL research, Snack'N Cheese To-Go! is viewed by consumers as an all-family snack, with 61% consumers believing cheese is a healthier alternative to other snack foods. LOL's research also shows that 70% of consumers love the taste of cheese and 44% often eat it as a snack.

Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn., offers Snack Size Deli Cheese with separately packaged snacking meat slices. This cheese comes in two varieties: Colby & Monterey Jack and mild Cheddar.

Sargento Foods Inc., Plymouth, Wis., has its own version of slices for crackers. Cracker Snacks[r] come in three flavors: Colby Jack, medium Cheddar and a variety pack of mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack. For kids, the company offers three-dimensional cheese shapes. These finger-friendly shaped snacks come in two varieties. SunBursts[tm] includes Colby-Jack, mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack sun shapes and Stars and Moons[tm] includes mild Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheeses in the shape of, you guessed it, stars and moons.

Saputo Cheese USA Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., now offers consumers a 24-count Variety Pack of Frigo[r] Cheese Heads[r] string cheese. The multi-packs contain eight 1-oz strings of Cheddar, mozzarella and Cheddar/mozzarella Swirls[tm].