Cheese is “glorious” indeed.

No matter if that advertising campaign from the 1980s comes to mind or not, it is a great way to describe the cheese segment of the dairy industry today. 

Most cheese categories enjoyed sales growth, even as volume sales dipped. According to Chicago-based Information Resources Inc. (IRI), dairy natural cheese achieved sales growth of 2.1% to $12.25 billion in U.S. multi-outlets for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 4. Dairy natural sliced cheese, at 4.5%, had the strongest 52-week period year-over-year (YoY) increase versus the year-prior period. This subcategory achieved YoY dollar sales of $2.48 billion and showed further strength by being one of the few categories to have a YoY volume sales increase, per IRI data.

In terms of YoY dollar sales on an ascending basis, dairy processed cheese also had a solid year. This subcategory enjoyed a volume sales increase of 3% to $2.36 billion. Dairy-processed sliced cheese and dairy-processed cheese both had strong 52-week periods in this subcategory. Volume sales of dairy processed cheese increased 4% YoY to $1.67 billion, while AO forms processed cheese rocketed higher by nearly 8% to $149 million, according to IRI data.

However, dairy alternative cheese suffered significant declines in both dollar sales and volume sales. This subcategory suffered a 7.5% dollar sales decline to nearly $111 million, while volume sales plummeted by nearly 11% to 17.3 million. 

Switching gears to the deli cheese market, most subcategories had strong sales figures for the year ending Sept. 4. The one demerit comes in the deli service cheese subcategory, where dollar sales slipped nearly 5% to $1.16 billion, IRI notes.

But otherwise, all subcategories enjoyed YoY dollar sales increases, according to IRI. In terms of total dollar sales, deli specialty cheese led the way with $4.9 billion in sales, a YoY rise of 2.7%. The No. 1 mover on a percentage basis was deli specialty blend, whose sales rose 8.5% to $120 million. Also having standout periods for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 4 were deli specialty fresh mozzarella, up 7% YoY to $446 million, and deli specialty Hispanic, increasing 6.2% YoY to $663 million.

Deli grab-and-go cheese saw dollar sales increase a robust 6.3% to $1.2 billion. Under this subcategory, deli grab-and-go Monterrey jack and Colby jack had fantastic 52-week periods, both seeing dollar sales rise more than 25%, states IRI.

Deli pre-sliced cheese enjoyed a similar overall percentage increase, rising 6.7% YoY to $453 million. AO deli pre-sliced was a winner here, rocketing higher by 41% to $64 million in dollar sales. Deli pre-sliced Monterrey jack also saw dollar sales rise by more than 20% to nearly $16 million, IRI data reports.

Lastly, in the alternative cheese category, deli specialty dairy alternative cheeses had a standout year, with dollar sales increasing 25% to nearly $57 million. Volume sales also lifted higher by 28% to 5.5 million units. One major highlight in this category was deli specialty alternative Hispanic cheese, which had $4.3 million in sales, good for a 207% YoY improvement, per IRI.

Deli pre-sliced dairy alternative cheese had a robust year as well, although on a more muted basis. This subcategory achieved $32.7 million in sales, an increase of 3% YoY. Deli pre-sliced provolone, American and mozzarella all had excellent 52-week periods, with dollar sales rising 92%, 116% and 124% YoY, respectively, although all were based on smaller sales figures of $4.2 million or less.