Saturday, October 20, 2018
 Cheese Is Becoming the Snack of Choice  
Look out potato chips and pretzels. Cheese is making a push to become the snack of choice.

Private label competition and a deepening recession may have taken a bite out of cheese sales, but snacking cheese remains a bright spot for the category. And, dairy companies like Kraft, Sargento and The Laughing Cow have taken notice.

Snacking is a $90 billion industry and cheese is grabbing a larger share. Whereas 2.5% of the population ate cheese in the evening as a snack 10 years ago, the percentage is now 4.5%, per the NPD Group, Port Washington, N.Y.

Overall, Americans consumed 1.1 billion cheese snacks in 2008. Children under 6 were the largest consumers of the snack, followed by those in the 6-12 range and then the 18-34 range (females 18-34 ate slightly more cheese than men).

Nielsen data shows specialty and imported cheese sales reaching $853 million for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 4. That’s an increase of 9.5% over the previous year’s figure of $779 million.

To grab shoppers’ attention, Kraft launched in-store cheese snacking centers this month. Bearing headlines such as “Snack smarter, nutritious and delicious,” the displays are designed “to create a speed bump in the aisle,” said Mike Mikyska, vp-business development at Display Boys, Santa Ana, Calif., which created the centers.

The display units range anywhere from four to 12 feet in length, with vertical side panels to highlight the different Singles and Cracker Barrel cheeses. Kraft will extend the cheese centers into 1,000 stores by year’s end.

“We feel cheese represents an untapped opportunity in terms of the overall snacking trend, but also because cheese is a wholesome snacking alternative,” said Tyler Williamson, brand manager for Kraft’s cheese business unit.

The health positioning appears to be spot on. Mintel, Chicago, found that 61% of consumers view cheese as a healthy snack.

Scoring a success with snackers is paramount for Kraft. IRI data ending the week of Oct. 5 show Kraft Singles sales fell 10.87% to $413 million, despite a value messaging campaign launched on behalf of the brand last month.

Cheese rival Sargento’s strategy is to repackage its products as a holiday snack. The Plymouth, Wis.-based cheese maker is introducing holiday-shaped cheese cubes for the first time. New snowflake and Christmas tree versions sell for a suggested retail price of $3.19.
“Once cheese is in the household, it’s an all-family snack. That’s the appeal of cheese. It’s a snack that everyone likes,” said Sargento senior marketing manager Erin Price. Sargento also will mount a robust marketing plan for its cheeses in 2009.

The Laughing Cow, meanwhile, is continuing on-air promotion of its signature snacking cheese wedge. Launched in January by DDB, Chicago, the spot was the brand’s first entry into TV advertising. The ad underscores the brand’s tagline of how “in life, you can’t always have what you want, but when it comes to a [healthy snack that doesn’t comprise on taste], you can,” said Ann Legan, senior brand manager at The Laughing Cow, which is a division of Bel Brands USA, Elk Grove Village, Ill.

Legan said the commercial has boosted sales by 30% to date. The Laughing Cow will support TV efforts by giving away samples and coupons as part of a mobile truck tour early next year.

NPD Group vp Harry Balzer said, while cheese is not yet a major snack item, “it clearly has the trend in its favor.”

Source: Brandweek

Posted on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 (Archive on Tuesday, November 04, 2008)
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