As consumers continue to seek out food with clean ingredients, protein on the go, freshness and convenience, cheese is the answer to many of those needs. Over the last year, cheese processors have doubled down on portable snack offerings, from cheese bites to snack packs. Hybrid options (think cheese paired with lunch meats, nuts, fruit and pretzels) are popping up everywhere. Portion control and portability are the keys.
Making cheese predates recorded history, but artisan cheesemaking in the U.S. is a relatively new industry. According to a 2016 American Cheese Society (ACS) report, there are more than 900 artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers operating in the United States. While a few artisan cheesemakers have been in business for over 100 years, the average has been making cheese for only 15 years.
The cheese expo takes place April 12 and 13 in Madison, Wis., at the Alliant Energy Center.
March 10, 2017
Nearly 2,000 cheese industry leaders, suppliers and cheese manufacturers will gather in Madison, Wis., for the Wisconsin Cheese Industry Conference (WCIC) to share information about the latest in cheese technology, new products and issues affecting the cheese, butter and whey industries.
To see how White Clover Dairy grew up to become Arla Foods, it helps to look at a series of aerial photos hung in the entrance hallway to this cheese plant in Hollandtown, Wis. In the first image there is a farmhouse near the original plant. Later images show how expansions to the plant crept closer and closer to the house. Eventually, the plant completely surrounds the farmhouse, and in the last image, the house is gone. These additions over the years turned the facility into a 110,000-square-foot plant.
Havarti, Gouda and Edam are cheese types from the Old World. But Arla is making them in Wisconsin. The CEO of the U.S. division of this European dairy co-op talks about Arla’s growth strategy here and its Cheddar cheese joint venture with Dairy Farmers of America.
The European dairy cooperative Arla Foods amba has set its sights on the United States. The strategic plan of this co-op based in Denmark states that the goal is to “excel in eight dairy categories; focus on six geographical regions and win as one united and efficient Arla.”
These are good times to be in cheese. It is a dairy food that consumers like and it can be packaged in formats that fit an on-the-go way of life. Dairy processors are investing in capacity to keep up with demand.
Consumers love their cheese and are clear about what they want. It has to be easy to eat, portable, available in a variety of flavors and all-natural. These are the dominant themes from almost every cheese processor we spoke with. Convenience, flavor innovation, authenticity and freshness are key factors that will drive consumer cheese purchases, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Madison.
Latin American cheese production in the United States has seen substantial growth over the last decade. Driven by the increase in the Hispanic population in the United States, which is now over 55 million, as well as increased consumer interest in specialty cheese, production has increased from around 167 million pounds 10 years ago to around 254 million pounds in 2015.