Bold cheese flavors are spicing up the market as consumers seek out exciting varieties with backstories and clean labels, according to What's in Store, the annual trends publication of the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Kraft Cracked Pepper string cheeseAccording to Euromonitor’s Cheese in the U.S. report, “U.S. cheese consumers are becoming increasingly adventurous, and interested in trying new cheeses with more distinctive flavor profiles.” Bold, robust, and spicy flavors continue to drive business. They include spicy cheeses with wasabi and cumin, as well as fruity cheeses including pear and lime. Coffee, lavender, and honey are other trendy cheese flavors.

Consumers looking for new flavors are driving cheese growth at the service deli. Sales are up as is the specialty cheese dollar contribution to total deli sales. Average weekly sales of specialty cheese for the 52 weeks ending February 25, 2012 were $2,934, up 6.6% from $2,753 per week in the 52 weeks ending February 26, 2011.

The local movement sweeping food retail is more pronounced than ever in cheese. Locally-produced products are growing in importance at the cheese counter. While it can be challenging to source local cheese in all markets, Euromonitor’s Virginia Lee noted that the “farm-to-table” message resonates with consumers. Coupled with the trend of farm- and estate-branded ingredients at restaurants, retailers and cheesemakers can benefit from telling the stories of the cheeses they sell. For instance, cheesemakers are using milk from grass-fed cows during specific seasons to achieve certain flavor profiles.

Another way cheese makers are innovating is through offering different styles of rubbed-rind cheeses. The rubbed flavors, like cocoa or lavender, complement the cheese and offer new taste experiences for consumers. Some cheese makers have even found that their rubbed-rind cheeses outsell their traditional cheeses. Rubs added to cheese include sun-dried tomatoes, lavender, espresso, bergamot, cocoa, vanilla, honey, black tea, cinnamon and paprika.

Popular cheese forms could be an indication of consumers' preference for convenient meal startrs as the cook at home trend becomes more pronounced in the stagnant economic environment. In the 52 weeks ending July 15, 2012, shredded cheese was the biggest selling cheese form, accounting for 30.1% of sales, followed by sliced at 27.0%, chunk at 17.5%, and loaf at 9.5%.

U.S. cheese sales are expected to grow 0.9% to $19.3 billion by 2016, according to Euromonitor International. According to FreshLook Marketing’s FreshView data, cheese sales were largely unchanged at $2.474 billion for the 52 weeks ending December 23, 2012. Volume was down 2% at 353.6 million pounds. American cheese continues to lead in deli cheese sales at 105.9 million pounds in the same timeframe with a retail value of approximately $602 million.

Cheese commercial disappearance (consumer demand) has been significantly slower in recent years, averaging 2.2% for the last ten years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

What’s in Store 2013
Our 27th edition is a 200+ page trends report that details consumer and industry trends affecting the dairy case, cheese case, bakery, deli and foodservice supermarket departments. Its nearly 200 tables, developed in cooperation with leading industry firms and associations, include department sales, per capita consumption, consumer preferences, random-weight, UPC, and private label sales data. The cost is $99 for IDDBA members and $399 for non-members, plus shipping and handling. For more information and to order visit

IDDBA is a nonprofit membership organization serving the dairy, deli, bakery, cheese, and supermarket foodservice industries. Member companies enjoy many benefits and services including the annual seminar and expo, leading-edge research, training programs, management tools, and an annual trends report. For more information, contact IDDBA at 608.310.5000 or visit our Web site,