Americans’ love affair with specialty cheese isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Volume sales of specialty cheese have grown five times as fast as the cheese category overall in the past year, according to IRI.
In Wisconsin, known for its cheeses, specialty cheese production increased by seven percent in the past year, according to the USDA. With this increase in mind, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has predicted the top five ways consumers will look to enjoy specialty cheese in 2018.
On a cheese board
Sixty-nine percent of Millennials report taking a photo or video of their food before eating according to a study by Maru/Matchbox. Creating Instagram-worthy foods like cheese boards made with specialty cheese is a growing trend among Millennials. To date there are more than 237,000 images of cheese boards on Instagram.
With bold flavor
Cheesemakers are embracing bigger, bolder flavors by developing unique flavored cheeses and specialty products, says WMMB. Smoked cheeses, herb and vegetable flavored cheese and cheeses with spicy flavorings are all fast-growing segments of the cheese category as consumers increasingly reach for more flavorful cheeses. Retail volume sales of flavored cheese also are outpacing growth in the total cheese category, with flavored cheese increasing by 1.5 percent compared to the total cheese category.
Blended with other varieties
Unique cheese varieties and blends of specialty cheeses are popping up on restaurant menus across the country. Swiss, burrata and gouda are three of the fastest-growing cheeses currently being blended and used on pizza.
For a gourmet snack
Cheese is the fastest-growing savory snack between meals, according to the NPD Group. This fact is driving cheesemakers to think beyond the mozzarella cheese stick and develop sophisticated snacks made with specialty cheese. New products like Carr Valley Cheese’s Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Stix and BelGioioso’s Provolone Cheese & Genoa Salami Snacking Rolls are two examples of Wisconsin cheese companies embracing this trend.
In a meal kit
Meal kits are a quick and easy way for consumers to enjoy fresh, local ingredients—including specialty cheese—says WMMB. According to Nielsen, one in four adults has purchased a meal kit in the last year, and 70 percent continue to use them after making their first purchase.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is a nonprofit organization of dairy farmers that promotes the consumption of milk, cheese and other dairy products made in “America’s Dairyland.”