Consumers are showing greater interest in learning about the origin and different varieties of cheeses, as well as trying new local cheeses. Thus, many retailers are expanding their cheese departments beyond the classic product types like Cheddar and Swiss.

Dozens of more food industry and retail trends within the dairy, deli, cheese, and bakery sectors are highlighted in “What’s in Store 2015” by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, a trade group based in Madison, Wis. (Purchase the 224-page trends report at

Among the highlights of the cheese chapter:

  • Consumers are seeking bold, aged, flavors, but they also want clean labels and to know where their cheese is from.
  • Millennials (the generation born between 1980 and 2000) are a key demographic for specialty cheese. They like experiential shopping experiences and are adventuresome consumers when it comes to new cheeses.
  • Cheese is a great source of protein for customers. Highlighting cheese’s protein content can further position it as a part of a healthy diet.
  • In the United States, the cheese category is positioned to grow 25% through 2018 — to over $27 billion.
  • Globally, the retail cheese market is expected to grow to over $138 billion by 2018.

Millennials in particular are an important demographic within the cheese industry because they are increasingly looking for cheeses that incorporate a wide spectrum of flavors, said IDDBA VP of Education Mary Kay O’Connor.

“They’re also more likely to visit the specialty cheese department than Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation,” she said. “Given the rise in snacking as a prominent eating occasion and the interest in consuming more protein, specialty cheese is well-aligned to position itself as a unique snack category that’s both healthy and indulgent.”

“Millennials are enticed by more variety, but want smaller portions,” Allen Hendricks, vice president of food service and education, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, told IDDBA.  “They’re experimental shoppers who like to take risks in selecting cheese.”

 Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications, California Milk Advisory Board, added, “Millennials are tech savvy, food savvy, and environmentally conscious — all things affecting their purchase decisions. They want to connect with brands completely — it’s about the total experience that doesn’t stop the minute they purchase a cheese at retail.”