Thursday, July 27, 2017

Five Trends Fueling Cheese Innovation

The average American consumes more than 34 pounds of cheese annually, according to USDA. This is a 43% increase over the past 25 years. In addition to innovative applications and recipes—beyond burgers, pizza and tacos—new forms and flavors are driving this consumption.

What’s helping are the multiple placements of cheese around the perimeter of the supermarket, beyond the dairy and deli departments. Creative merchandising keeps cheese relevant with today’s consumers, in particular Millennials and Gen X.{7279EF7C-C92C-4BB7-9153-6D3578965EF4}&pid={772BEDAE-50B9-46F8-861D-E13763FDE010}

Here are five trends fueling cheese innovation to help further drive sales. 

1. Charcuterie. From prosciutto to salami, cured and dried meats and sausages are a booming business. Some of this is because making charcuterie is as much of an art as it is a science and today’s foodie consumers are fascinated by the time and technique involved.

“There are so many levels to making charcuterie, and so many steps along the way,” said Missy Corey, former head butcher and sous chef at Publican Quality Meats, Chicago. “It’s a long process and you invest a great deal of time, and you don’t know until after it has aged if it is even any good.”

What best accompanies charcuterie? Cheese. Restaurants and consumers are seeking out convenient cuts and bold flavors to make appetizer boards and trays. Sharp cheddars, which come in many degrees of sharpness, complement the tangy, fermented tastes of many charcuterie products. Get creative with packaging and merchandising. Work with retailers to have product near charcuterie cases. Offer pairing ideas and even recipes. 

2. Mediterranean Cuisine. The growing popularity of Mediterranean cuisine, which includes the flavors of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, such as Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Levant and Syria, is apparent by the number of supermarkets that now offer antipasti, charcuterie and olive bars, foods that are indigenous to this region. Many retailers also offer an overwhelming array of dips, sides, condiments and cheese, namely feta and fresh mozzarella.

Source: IRI, courtesy of Midwest Dairy Council

This food trend presents service deli operators and in-store cheese mongers with the opportunity to provide snacking and meal solutions featuring marinated and seasoned cheeses for Mediterranean dishes. It also creates an opportunity to offer such seasoned cheeses on food bars, alongside traditional Mediterranean foods such as gyros, kabobs and shawarma.

3. Breakfast. Wake up and smell the bacon or sausage and taste the melted cheese. That’s what’s trending during the breakfast daypart. Today’s consumers know that protein is a great way to start the day and they are embracing all types of breakfast meats and cheeses. Similar to other dayparts, consumers also crave flavor adventure in the morning. This presents an opportunity for cheesemakers to offer new flavors, formats and pairings for the first meal of the day.

“Today’s consumers seek simplicity on their approach to breakfast. They want no fuss, no drama, no confusion and no time wasted,” says David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. “For many, breakfast choices involve removing pain points that could clog the flow of their day and weighing breakfast choices in terms of value for time. In each case, cost lurks in the background, since the breakfast someone normally has is not a splurge or a special occasion. It’s part of the weekly budget for everyday spending. But simplicity drives choice.”

This is driving innovation of protein-dense foods designed for dashboard dining, as well as heat-and-eat meals for convenience. What about a bacon and cheese bar or maple syrup and waffle-battered cheese curds?

For example, Johnsonville, Sheboygan Falls, Wis., has a new Western omelet breakfast sausage in distribution in Canada. Starting with a base of ground pork, this sausage packs in onion, green bell pepper, cheese, scrambled egg and spices that would be included in a Western omelet.

4. Natural, Minimally Processed, Simple. Natural has remained a top influence for shoppers around the world, but communications are shifting, according to a new report from HealthFocus International. Increased scrutiny of vague natural claims and the general overuse of the term within the food and beverage industry has fueled the clean-labeling trend as shoppers look towards other cues to signal that a product is more natural (e.g., organic, non-GMO, fewer ingredients, minimally processed, no artificial ingredients, etc.). Front-of-pack statements are becoming more specific in order to communicate to shoppers what the product is free from as well as what it contains.

Although communications are changing, according to the report, the importance of natural remains as shoppers demand transparency and increasingly seek out “real” foods. It’s no wonder why there’s so much innovation taking place in the natural cheese sector. Consumers recognize the simplicity and naturalness of cheese and are embracing it as an all-day snack. It helps that cheese is also loaded with satiating protein and bone-building nutrients.

5. Snacking. That brings me to snacking, which continues to eat away at the traditional three meals a day dining format. For many consumers, cheese is an important snack. Just look at the plethora of multi-compartment cheese packs invading the dairy department. Many new cheese snacks include meat, nuts and dried fruit.

“We know that the snacking trend is going strong, with only about 14% of consumers eating just breakfast lunch and dinner, according to The NPD Group,” says Rachel Kerr, public relations manager, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. “For most of us, snacking throughout the day is a part of our regular routine, and cheese makes an excellent choice for a healthy snack. If you’re looking for a snack that’s minimally processed and nutrient dense, cheese is a smart choice. The average serving of cheese contains 10 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium needs. Pair it with fresh fruit, crunchy vegetables, hearty crackers or lean meat for a filling snack that will leave you feeling great.”

To read more about snacking and view a slide show of cheese snacks introduced at IDDBA, link HERE to an article I wrote for Food Business News.

The time is now to get creative with cheese!{7279EF7C-C92C-4BB7-9153-6D3578965EF4}&pid={772BEDAE-50B9-46F8-861D-E13763FDE010}

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