Only modest growth for natural cheese
But refrigerated grated cheese, cheese cubes and cheese slices are outperforming the total category.
Cheese is one of the most versatile foods around, with consumers enjoying it as a snack, as part of a meal and as an ingredient in countless dishes. So it should come as no surprise that per-capita consumption has grown tremendously in the United States over the past few decades.
But recent sales data show a growth slowdown, at least on the retail side. Dollar sales within the total retail natural cheese category rose a modest 1.1% to $12,961.5 million during the 52 weeks ending Oct. 7, 2018, according to data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Unit sales increased 2.0% during the same timeframe.
As for processed cheese, it continued on a downward trend at retail. Dollar sales dropped 3.5% to $2,874.8 million, while unit sales fell 4.4%.
A few overachievers in natural
A few natural cheese subcategories managed to post better-than-average growth. One of those is refrigerated grated cheese, which saw dollar sales jump 10.7% to $106.6 million. Unit sales climbed 13.7%.
Meanwhile, the slightly larger natural cheese cube segment realized a 9.1% gain in dollar sales, reaching $123.5 million. Unit sales rose 10.1%.
Making strong gains here among the top 10 brands were Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, which saw 25.1% and 24.0% dollar sales and unit sales gains, respectively, and private label, which enjoyed 13.4% and 18.6% dollar and unit sales increases.
On the flip side, dollar sales of Kraft brand (Kraft Heinz Co.) natural cheese cubes fell 15.8%; unit sales were down 22.0%.
The much larger natural cheese slices subcategory also performed fairly well. Dollar sales for the total segment climbed 3.3% to $2,248.4 million. Unit sales rose 3.6%.
Two standouts among the top 10 brands were BelGioioso (BelGioioso Cheese Co.) and Cabot (Cabot Creamery Cooperative). BelGioioso’s dollar sales jumped 12.9% to $79.4 million; its unit sales were up 14.6%. And Cabot’s dollar sales skyrocketed by 58.0% to $18.9 million. The brand’s unit sales rose 88.1%.
Some natural segments see declines
A few natural cheese subcategories actually lost a bit of ground at retail. The giant natural cheese chunk subcategory saw a 0.3% decline in dollar sales (to $3,616.9 million), although unit sales were up 0.1%.
Faring better than the rest of the top 10 brands here were Boar’s Head (Boar’s Head Provision Co.) and Cacique Ranchero (Cacique Inc.). Boar’s Head saw a 10.1% increase in dollar sales to $84.0 million and a 9.2% gain in unit sales. Cacique saw dollar sales jump 13.1% to $74.6 million and unit sales rise 8.8%.
But two brands saw rather steep declines. Dollar sales for the Kraft brand fell 10.0% to $190.6 million; unit sales took a 7.1% dive. And the Kraft Cracker Barrel brand saw dollar sales decline 8.2% to $114.8; unit sales tumbled 7.5%.
Two smaller natural cheese segments also suffered. Dollar sales for natural crumbled cheese fell 0.2% to $341.6 million; unit sales tumbled 0.6%. And ricotta cheese saw dollar sales fall by 0.5% to $222.2 million and unit sales drop 0.9%.