Cheese Trends 2013: Per capita consumption of cheese continues to grow thanks to innovative new products by cheesemakers...as well as the fact that more and more consumers recognize cheese as a nutritious, versatile dairy food that complements every eating occasion. Read on to learn the trends driving innovation and how these innovations provide consumers permission to indulge on cheese.
All week long I have been receiving announcements of the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest winners. The contest, which was held March 12 and 13 in Green Bay, WI, is the largest technical evaluation of cheese and butter in the country. This year, more than 30,000 pounds of cheese were entered into the contest, representing 1,702 entries from 30 states.
A Wisconsin Gouda is the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese. Marieke Penterman, founder of Holland’s Family Cheese, Thorp, WI, took top honors. I’ve tasted this Gouda and agree it is fabulous. But I must admit it is Penterman’s Foenegreek Gouda that is my favorite. Foenegreek is a seed native to Holland and has a nutty, maple-like flavor. Penterman is one of the few to recognize that it makes a flavorful cheese inclusion. Congratulations!
And congratulations to all of the contest winners. The complete list of winners can be viewed HERE.
Cheese consumption data
Tradition, creativity and fine craftsmanship continue to drive cheese consumption. Data indicate that U.S. per capita cheese consumption was 33.3 pounds in 2010. This is projected to jump to 34.9 pounds by 2020.
When compared to the rest of the world, we can be eating a lot more cheese! In fact, Americans trail the French by almost 20 pounds of cheese per person annually. There’s a lot of room for growth…and innovative flavors and forms, as well as better-for-you formulations will bring new users to the category and create new usage occasions.
In late 2012, WeiserMazars and The Food Institute conducted the 2012 Food & Beverage Industry Study. The majority of participants were manufacturers (36%) and wholesalers/distributors (35%), representing a full range of products and company sizes. The study provided insight to potential drivers for the industry in 2013, and best practices to stay ahead of the competition today and tomorrow.
According to 59% of the study’s participants, new customers are most likely to influence sales growth, followed by new products (51%) and increased selling prices (40%). Isn’t this exactly what made Greek yogurt the star that it is today? (The complete study is available HERE.)
Top-Three Trends Influencing Innovations in Cheese
1. Connect to the Consumer. Create a cheese that has a story. Talk about the milk source, the proprietary aging technique, the driver behind the product. The consumer is looking for permission to purchase a premium, indulgent product. Don’t be shy. Your package is your marketing medium. Use it.
2. Offer Flavors and Forms. Include ingredients that add flavor or provide some kick. But don’t just add them. Tell the consumer where they came from and why they are being added. Also, offer flavorful cheeses in convenient forms for snacking and dash-board dining. String cheese has grown up!
3. Focus on the Nutrition Facts. Provide consumers permission to indulge with an improved Nutrition Facts. Notice how I don’t suggest you scream out to the consumer that the product is “low fat” or “reduced sodium.” By all means, low-fat and low-sodium cheeses appeal to a growing population segment, but such labels can also scare some consumers away, as they might bring back bad memories of similarly labeled products that were inferior.
Ingredient technologies are now available to lower fat and even more so, lower sodium, without impacting the indulgence factor. Many label-conscious consumers stopped eating cheese or reduced consumption for various health reasons. An improved Nutrition Facts gives them permission to indulge once again. Here are those new consumers that will help drive sales.
Also, keep in mind that not only are lower fat and lower salt formulations appealing in the retail packaged cheese sector, they are also increasingly being sought out in foodservice—from fast-food chains to fine-dining restaurants to school menus. For more information about sodium-reduction technologies, read my August 17, 2012, blog HERE.
In addition to removing some fat and sodium, make sure you promote the protein content—which contributes to satiety—as well as the cheeses’ other nutrients, primarily calcium.
The following innovations include elements of one or more of the trends just discussed. In addition to these new products, please check out the cheeses previously featured as a Daily Dose of Dairy HERE.
Bringing their medal count to an impressive 10 in the past three years, Wisconsin’s Red Barn Family Farms has successfully partnered with a select group of traditional small Wisconsin dairy farm families to produce its championship line of Heritage Weis white cheddar.
The most recent awards were received this past week at the 2013 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. Red Barn’s Heritage Weis Reserve took gold in the aged bandaged cheddar category. The Heritage Weis Reserve-3 Year won silver in the same group, as did the Heritage Weis in mild to medium cheddars.
“We are absolutely convinced of the connection between healthy, well-cared for cows and the distinctively delicious milk and cheese they produce,” says Terry Homan, a doctor of veterinary medicine and co-founder of Red Barn Family Farms. “We believe our track record validates this premise.”
Red Barn Rules place each of the eight Red Barn Family Farms in the top tier across the industry for milk quality. Red Barn Family Farms are the only humane-certified dairy farms in Wisconsin. Each farm must be family owned and must be its primary source of livelihood. The majority of the farm labor must be performed by family members. Farms milk 70 cows or fewer; each cow is known by her name, (not a number); and they live longer lives than the industry average, according to the company.
“We exist to honor and sustain traditional small family farms and the inherent way these farmers care for their cows. The health of our cows correlates directly to the championship cheese they help produce,” Homan says.
Red Barn Heritage Weis is creamy, smooth old-world-style white cheddar with a pleasant, tangy finish. It is distinctively sweeter than typical cheddar and pairs well with fruit, especially pears, apples and strawberries. It has remarkable melting qualities, making delectable gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade mac and cheese, or melted on a juicy burger and accompanied by pale ale.
Heritage Weis Reserve is aged more than one year. It possesses a bold, nutty flavor--but not sharp--with a long complex finish. Still creamy and smooth, it pairs well with nutty or seeded crackers and a glass of red wine or even dark beer, such as porter or stout. It is also a smooth melting cheese ideal for making flavorful beer and cheddar fondue.
Heritage Weis Reserve-3-Year, just released in October 2012, maintains its signature creaminess complemented by flavorful textured tyrosine clusters, the sign of well-aged cheese. The 3-Year offers bold, complex flavor without the acidity of typical aged cheddar. It stands up to full-bodied wine or stout.
Red Barn Family Farms will release a brand new American original raw milk cheese in September 2013. (Can't wait to try it...hint, hint.)
Red Barn Family Farms’ award-winning cheddars are made in small batches at Springside Cheese Corporation in Oconto Falls, WI, by cheesemaker Wayne Hintz. They are available in whole (13 pound), half and quarter midget wheels that are bandaged then dipped in traditional red paraffin; wholesale; and as individual 8-ounce wedges. For more information, visit HERE.
The Irish Dairy Board is introducing Kerrygold Skellig, a sweet cheddar cheese with a firm, yet creamy texture. It has a distinct nuttiness and sweet apple notes. The cheese is not “sweet” as sugar is sweet, but is best described as having an intensely flavorful, high-umami profile.
“The first thing you notice is how creamy it is,” says Laura Werlin, a James Beard Foundation Cookbook Award winner and one of the country’s foremost authorities on cheese, in her tasting notes for Skellig. “This is followed by fruity, almost apple-like flavors with a decided sweetness. That’s then chased with light brown butter and nutty flavors and an ever-so-slight sharpness on the finish. Altogether, it’s an amazing experience.”
Kerrygold is introducing Skellig in anticipation of a European trend the company expects will catch on in the U.S. “The trend in the U.K. and the rest of Europe is shifting towards a sweet cheddar,” says Roisin Hennerty, president of the U.S. consumer foods business. “Brand research abroad shows consumers favor sweeter cheddars over more traditional cheddars and we expect a similar taste evolution to occur in the States. Skellig captures the flavor profile that is in demand in Europe.”
Like all Kerrygold cheeses and butters, Skellig is made in Ireland with milk from grass-fed cows that are free of artificial growth hormones. The cows are raised on small family farms, with an average herd size of 60. Kerrygold Skellig comes in 7-ounce parchment packages. For more information, visit HERE.
The product made its debut during The New York Food Film Festival and will also be at the third annual Chicago Food Film Festival. (I was fortunate to attend the inaugural edition of this event in The Windy City and I hope to attend again later this year...hint, hint!)
Part of a five-day celebration highlighting the best of food film, Jarlsberg Hickory Smoked was sampled by more than 1,500 attendees and paired with Islay 8 single malt whiskeys, Frei Brothers fine reserve wines, plus several local craft beers and cider.
“We were delighted to have an opportunity for this kind of personal consumer and pairing interaction, at what is the only known multi-sensory film festival of its kind,” says Deanna Finegan, Norseland’s marketing manager. “The product feedback we received was extremely positive, from an audience that values a quality food experience.” For more information, visit HERE.
Brigitte Mizrahi, CEO of Anderson International Foods Inc., is a French cheese connoisseur, cheese blogger and the woman behind four lines of specialty cheeses currently in the U.S. market, including the recently introduced "Sincerely, Brigitte" line. The flavored cheese line was inspired by her passion for new flavors and adventure. Varieties are: Blue Marble (with white cheddar), Chipotle (with white cheddar), Garlic Basil (with Monterey Jack), Jalapeno Cilantro (with Monterey Jack), Parsley Chives (with Monterey Jack) and Tomato Olive (with Monterey Jack). The cheeses come in 7-ounce chunks. For more information, visit HERE.
Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., uses milk from local grass-fed cows, to produce its new line of Graziers cheeses. Sold in 8-ounce chunks, there’s medium and sharp cheddar, Jalapeno Jack, Monterey Jack and mozzarella.
For more information, visit HERE.
And here’s a new one from Italy. A new subscriber to the Daily Dose of Dairy, this cheesemaker from Pregiati di Gusto is introducing Provola with Lemon. The cheese is made with a green lemon inside, which releases citrus flavors over time, giving the cheese a very unique flavor profile. The company is known for making cheeses with all types of interesting and flavorful ingredients, including other fruits and nuts.
For more information, visit HERE.