Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Return of Milkfat…It’s Time to Make Cheese the Snack Food Leader in 2016!

Source: Today's blog is sponsored by Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (thank you!)

Cheese—a food long shunned for its saturated fat and sodium content, yet ironically, per-capita consumption has been on an upswing forever—is being openly embraced by consumers for its protein content, flavor versatility and snacking convenience.

Science shows that saturated fat is no longer associated with heart disease, as once believed. And research indicates that fat, in particular, animal fat, is no longer the enemy.

Hot-off-the-presses research from Coast Packing Company and Ipsos Research indicates that younger Americans are more receptive to animal fats in their diet than their elders, and are eating accordingly. 

A survey of 1,000 adults conducted in mid-November examined how attitudes about animal fats in the American diet have changed in recent years, and how consumption patterns may be changing as well. Respondents were asked whether they were more or less open to animal fats, and whether those views extended to actual behavior. The clear finding: where animal fats are concerned, youth will be served. 

This is an excellent opportunity to get creative in snacking cheeses geared towards the palates of the millennial generation.

According to the survey, those in the 18 to 34 age bracket are twice as open to animal fats as the next oldest group (35 to 54)—15% vs. 7%--and three times as open as those 55 and over (5%). Behavior does indeed follow attitudes. By a wide margin, those 18 to 34 are leading the charge back to animal fats. Thirteen percent say their consumption has increased. In fact, consumption is dramatically higher than those 35 to 54 (5%) and those 55-plus years (2%). Just 28% of those 18 to 34 say they have reduced their intake of animal fats, vs. 33% of those 35 to 54 and 46% of those 55-plus years.

“Millennials are concluding that animal fats have been demonized for too long,” says Eric Gustafson, CEO of Coast Packing Company. “The reality is that animal fats, in moderation, are not as problematic as they once were thought to be. And in today’s foodie culture, taste is increasingly on par with health concerns.”

Age is the most decisive differentiator among the various demographic filters, the survey found. Flipping the age bracket around, a greater percentage of those 55 and up were less open to animal fats (35%) than any other age group, by a roughly 10% margin. Those 35 to 54 were most set in their ways, with 67% indicating that there had been no change in their attitudes in recent years. 

By gender, men are more open to animal fats than women (11%, compared to 7% for women); similarly, a smaller percentage of men reported being less open to animal fats (27%, to 31% for women). Think manly cheese snacks, big sticks in bold flavors.

To request a complete copy of the survey results, link HERE.
This research supports findings published in another hot-off-the-presses report, the annual trends publication--What’s in Store--from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA). In its 30th year of credible reporting, What’s in Store 2016 is an essential dairy-deli-supermarket foodservice-bakery-cheese resource providing vital data on the retail and market trends, growth and category changes shaping the food industry.

According to IDDBA findings, 53% of shoppers are now opting for smaller snacks; 47% say they really enjoy anything new and different or trying new kinds of ethnic cuisine; and 61% are now opting for healthier snacks.

“Local” is a quality distinction marker and signifies for consumers: greater transparency and trust; fresher and more seasonal products: good taste; and support of the proximate food economy.

When it comes to cheese, the report shows that per-capita cheese consumption in the U.S. is at an all-time high, with nearly 34 pounds per person. U.S. per-capita cheese spending has increased by 37% since 2008. Ninety-eight percent of American households purchase cheese; 97% buy natural cheese and 70% buy process cheese.
Millennials are an important cheese consumer, given their desire to try new flavors and textures, as well as belief that specialty/craft and imported cheeses are worth paying more for. This includes in snacking and “tasting” formats.

Protein is a top consideration for consumers when purchasing dairy products, as 78% believe it contributes to a healthy diet and 16% look at the amount of protein when shopping.

According to Nielsen data cited in What’s in Store 2016, snacking cheese dollar sales in 2014 through all U.S. retail outlets increased 7.7%, reaching almost $1.5 billion. Unit sales were up 3.1%, indicating consumers are paying more for snacking cheeses, which suggests snacking cheeses have gone premium and command a higher price tag. 

For more information on the report, link HERE.

Separately, IDDBA also recently published a report entitled “Snacking Opportunities: Building Better Snacks.”

Developed in conjunction with The Hartman Group, the report identifies key ways food retailers can elevate snacking experiences across bakery, dairy, deli, prepared foods and specialty cheese to meet consumers’ evolving needs for customizable, convenient and healthier snacking options, as well as new taste discoveries.

“The rise in daily snacking occasions creates ideal opportunities for retailers to connect with shoppers, as fresh perimeter departments are prime locations to feature fresh, healthy and single-serve products,” says Alan Hiebert, senior education coordinator, IDDBA. “Our latest research provides retailers with data and insight on how to engage with customers by examining their snacking shopping habits and food preferences.”

Here are some recent millennial-centric snacking cheese innovations from America’s Dairyland: Wisconsin.

Saputo Cheese USA now offers a Wisconsin Snacking Cheese line with the tagline of “robust snacking cheese.” There are seven millennial-friendly varieties: Cheddar with Parmesan Notes, Chipotle Cheddar, Colby Habanero, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Sharp Cheddar and Smoke Flavor White Cheddar.

And here’s one that screams millennial palate: Sargento Sriracha Jack cheese sticks.

Happy snacking!

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