As I touched upon in last month’s issue, the dairy industry is not going anywhere, anytime soon. However, certain dairy segments are performing better than others, and a true standout is cheese.

The latest evidence comes thanks to Kerry’s recently released report, “Revealing the Cheese: How consumer emotion is driving the cheese flavoured snack market.” 

Simply put, I knew the cheese market was doing well. But I was unaware it is as hot as some Doritos Flamin’ Hot Nacho Cheese tortilla chips.

According to the global Kerry report, savory snack sales grew by 5.8% between 2017 and 2021, with 61 percent of the 8,790 consumers from 16 countries surveyed stating they wanted more nostalgic and comforting savory snacks since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Beyond savory snacks, the report concluded that no matter the food item, whether potato chips, crisps, popcorn or puffed snacks, cheese always plays a starring role. 

“There are multiple reasons why cheese is universally popular, but in essence cheese delivers on three key consumer priorities: taste, nutrition and versatility,” the report states. “Of these, the prime driver for choosing cheese — by a significant margin — is its delicious taste.”

Although taste means a lot, cheese is not only enjoyed for this one characteristic. Beyond the powerful driver of delicious taste, cheese flavors evoke a spectrum of strongly positive emotions, the Kerry report notes. 

More than one-third (34%) of global consumers believe cheese flavors make them happy, with this proclamation most pronounced in Asian countries such as India — where half of consumers make this statement — as well as Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey. 

Regarding which cheese flavors global consumers enjoy most, cheddar took the top spot, enjoyed by 60% of global consumers, followed by mozzarella, parmesan, cheese/plain, nacho cheese, American cheese, feta, ricotta, brie, halloumi, emmental, mascarpone, provolone and Havarti, respectively, Kerry reveals.

Closer to home, cheddar, white cheddar, nacho cheese, mozzarella and parmesan are Americans’ most-admired cheese flavors, respectively.

The Beloit, Wis.-based company also offers advice for cheese processors: 

  1. Explore the canvas of cheese flavors, blending and stacking with other tonalities. Although many consumers love classic, single-cheese flavors in savory snacks, there is plenty of scope for mixing things up. A significant percentage state that creative additions such as herbs, spices and chili are variants they look for. 
  2. Understand the appeal of specific cheese flavors in different savory snack categories. Kerry’s findings show that preferences can vary according to product category. For example, Nacho cheese is ranked lower by consumers for popcorn and snack puffs, but it’s their firm favorite when it comes to tortilla chips.
  3. Reflect cultural and geographic influences on consumers’ taste preferences. The current sensory maps deliver a deep understanding of the taste profile diversity available in each country and region. Taste perceptions and preferences vary hugely around the world. For example, survey respondents described Indonesian cheese-flavored snacks as “buttery, creamy, sweet, mild and milky.” Yet among U.S. respondents, cheese-flavored snacks were described as “savory, sour, cheesy and buttery.”

Hence, when I break open my favorite bag of cheese snacks, I know I am definitely not alone. The future of cheese and on-the-go snacking definitely looks bright for processors.