Like several other segments of dairy, most natural and processed cheese categories enjoyed strong dollar sales during a recent 52-week period, but suffered unit sales declines, according to information provided by Chicago-based Circana.
Overall, natural cheese and processed cheese saw dollar sales of $17 billion and $3.4 billion, respectively, for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 29, a 7% year over year (YoY) increase for both segments, IRI data states. On the unit sales side, natural cheese declined 1% to 4.34 billion, while processed cheese dropped 3% to 726 million.
Looking at natural cheese subcategories, natural cheese shredded saw a 52-week dollar sales gain of 8% to $6.5 billion, while unit sales declined by a fraction of a percent YoY to 1.8 billion. Natural cheese chunks rose by 5% YoY to $4.34 billion, with unit sales dropping 1% to 960 million; natural cheese slices enjoyed a dollar sales increase of 7% to $3.1 billion, with unit sales dropping 1% to 865 million; natural cheese string/stick dollar sales gained 5% to $1.5 billion and unit sales dipped 6% to 370 million; natural cheese crumbled rose by 4% to $537 million and unit sales dropped 3% to 116 million; and natural cheese all other forms saw dollar sales rise 3% to $412 million, and unit sales drop 3% to 91 million, per IRI data.
Overall private-label sales were shining in many natural cheese subcategories, with both dollar sales and unit sales increasing in the natural cheese shredded, natural cheese chunks, and natural cheese chunks categories.
Beyond private label, three companies saw explosive growth of more than 20% in both dollar sales and unit sales for the 52 weeks ended Jan. 29 in the natural cheese shredded category: La Chona, a division of El Rey Foods (42% dollar share gain and 25% YoY unit share gain); Sabrosura division La Morenita 34 percent sales gain and 30 percent unit share gain); and Atwater, Calif.-based Joseph Farms 29% sales gain and 27% unit sales gain).
In the other natural cheese categories, only one other company joined this exclusive “20-20” dollar sales and unit sale percentage-gainers club: Oregon, Wis.-based Wisconsin Cheese Co., whose natural cheese string/stick dollar sales rose 32% and unit sales increased by 27%, according to IRI data.
Shifting to the processed cheese subcategories for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 29, processed/imitation cheese dollar sales grew by 10% to $1.9 billion, with unit sales dropping 2% to 446 million; cheese spreads/balls eked out a 2% dollar sales gain to $581 million, but unit sales tumbled 8% to 121 million; and processed imitation cheese-loaf suffered a dollar sales decline of 8% to $475 million and unit sales dropping by 12% to 65 million.
The processing imitation cheese-all other category was a different story, however, with dollar sales rocketing higher by 38% YoY to $187 million, and unit sales rising 20% to 33 million.
An individual standout in the processed cheese category was Arden Hills, Minn.-based Land O’ Lakes, whose processed imitation cheese slice dollar sales increased by 13% and unit sales enjoyed a 9% gain. Another standout was Pine River in the cheese spread/ball subcategory. The Newton, Wis.-based company generated a dollar sales increase of 23% YoY and unit sales lifted 17%.
Among the standouts in the red-hot imitation cheese-all other category were Canoga Park, Calif.’s Follow Your Heart, whose dollar sales rose 137% and unit sales 125% YoY, and Bel Brands division Boursin, whose dollar sales jumped by 116% and unit sales enjoyed a 90% rise YoY, IRI states.