Natural cheese sales have been steady for subcategories such as slices and shreds, but others (crumbles, chunks) are struggling. Meanwhile, cheese spreads/balls saw a sales boost in the processed cheese category.

The natural cheese category saw dollar sales drop 0.2% to $12.9 billion and unit sales increase 0.3% to 3.9 billion for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 8, 2017, according to Chicago-based market research firm Information Resources Inc. (IRI). Despite a couple of subcategories seeing a sales boost, the processed cheese category still saw sales declines overall — dollar sales dropped 1.7% to $2.9 billion and unit sales decreased 3.4% to 755.5 million.

Among other subcategories, the natural cheese category includes:

  • Shredded cheese ($4.7 billion, units up 1.5%)
  • Chunks ($3.6 billion, units down 2.4%)
  • Slices ($2.2 billion, units up 3%)
  • String/stick ($1.3 billion, units down 2%)
  • Refrigerated grated ($95.6 million, units up 4.8%)
  • Among other subcategories, the processed cheese category includes:
  • Processed/imitation cheese-slices ($1.7 billion, units down 4.6%)
  • Cheese spreads/balls ($513 million, units up 2.4%)
  • Processed/imitation cheese — loaf ($417.3 million, units down 8.3%)
  • Processed/imitation cheese — all other ($128.9 million, units up 3.8%)


Natural cheese holds steady

Leading the category, the shredded cheese segment’s dollar sales were up 0.6% to $4.7 billion, and unit sales increased 1.5% to 1.5 billion.

Private label dominated the segment with $2.8 billion. Dollar sales rose 2.4% and unit sales were up 3.1% to 890.4 million.

Also among the top 10, Kraft Heinz saw dollar sales improve 3.6% and unit sales rise 4.9%. Sargento’s dollar sales dropped 10.4% and unit sales decreased 8.5%. Crystal Farms’ dollar and unit sales fell 6.4% and 2.4%, respectively. Taking a bigger hit, Borden (Dairy Farmers of America) saw dollar sales drop 24.6% and unit sales decrease 24.1%.

Two companies stood out with significant sales increases. Tillamook’s dollar sales jumped 16.2%, and its unit sales were up an impressive 24.8%. Likewise, Frigo (Saputo Cheese) enjoyed 21.7% and 16.2% increases in dollar and unit sales, respectively.

In the cheese slices segment, dollar sales improved 2.2% to $2.2 billion, and unit sales saw a 3% boost to 689.4 million.

Among the top 10, Sargento’s dollar sales were up 0.2% to $570.6 million, though unit sales fell 1.5% to 185.2 million. Kraft saw dollar sales fall 20.9% and unit sales drop 19.9%. It was a different story, though, in Kraft’s Cracker Barrel brand — dollar sales increased 7.6% and unit sales climbed 9.6%. Belgioioso’s dollar sales improved 6.9% and unit sales were up 5.9%.

Struggling was Borden, which saw dollar sales drop 13.1% and unit sales decrease 5.4%.

Meanwhile, the refrigerated grated cheese segment’s dollar sales ticked up 3.3% to $95.9 million, and unit sales increased 4.8% to 26 million. Coming up second in the top 10, behind private label ($46.7 million), Belgioioso saw impressive sales increases — dollar sales rose 37.5% to $11.9 million, and unit sales jumped 42.2% to 2.8 million.

Several others stood out among the top 10. El Mexicano (Marquez Brothers International) enjoyed a 43.7% dollar sales boost, and unit sales jumped 50.8%. Dollar sales increased 40.5% for Stella (Saputo Cheese), and unit sales climbed 42.8%. FUD (Sigma Alimentos) saw dollar and unit sales rise 44.6% and 45.1%, respectively.

Sartori struggled, with dollar and unit sales down 2.5% and 2.3%, respectively.


Cheese spreads whip up sales

The cheese spreads/balls segment showed promise, with dollar sales up 4% to $513 million and unit sales up 2.4%. Though The Laughing Cow (Bel Brands USA) led the segment with $100.4 million, dollar sales dropped 2.7% and unit sales fell 1.5% to 30.9 million. Showing promise was Palmetto Cheese (Get Carried Away), with dollar sales up 17.7% and unit sales increasing 16.9%. Also, Boursin (Bel Brands USA) saw dollar and unit sales jump 33.9% and 34.9%, respectively.