Lausanne, Switzerland, 19 April 2021

Consumers around the world admit to eating more cheese amidst pandemic

Major study across nine countries finds over a third of consumers (36%) say their consumption of cheese has increased during the pandemic and expect it to continue to increase

 COVID-19 has shifted consumer behaviours in many ways and cheese is no exception, with a third (36%) of consumers globally saying they have significantly increased their intake of cheese throughout the pandemic and expect this trend to continue. According to research from Tetra Pak, the food processing and packaging solutions company, mozzarella and cheddar are the most popular cheeses, accounting for half (50%: 25% respectively) of consumption globally.

The increased appetite for cheese is due, in part, to the fact that we are spending more time at home, providing us with increased opportunities to eat cheese, such as when watching TV (36%), with a drink (35%) or as a quick lunch (35%).

cottage cheese salad

The benefits of cheese

Cheese is an incredibly versatile product, which can be eaten as an ingredient within a recipe (51%), a snack at any time of the day (49%) or as an accompaniment to a meal (48%). Of those who are consuming cheese at home, over half (52%) eat it for breakfast, particularly in Turkey (84%) and Brazil (75%). Interestingly, this declines amongst Europeans, including Italians (6%), who are typically most renowned for a continental breakfast of meats and cheeses.

People are very attuned to the wellbeing benefits of cheese, acknowledging that it is healthy (56%), nutritious (51%) and high in protein (42%) and calcium (41%). Continuing this theme, over two thirds (68%) would opt for natural cheese due to the taste (69%) and the health benefits (67%). 

The production of cheese

There is real demand from consumers to know the origins of their food, with an overwhelming majority (77%) expressing an interest in the process of cheese production. Asia Pacific is the most inquisitive region, with 96% of Indian consumers interested in the process, followed closely by 89% of Chinese consumers.

Cheese consumers place most emphasis on the ingredients and where they are from (72%), with particular attention paid to the inclusion of preservatives (58%), colorants (55%) or palm oil (42%). However, they are also interested in where the product is made (52%), the heat treatments used (41%) and the sterile production (37%). This interest in the process extends to the packaging of the product, with over two-thirds (69%) placing value on environmentally friendly packaging, placing it fourth as a desirable product attribute after ‘ready to eat’ (82%), ‘nutritious’ (81%) and ‘free from added preservatives’ (81%).

Fred Griemsmann, Vice President Cheese & Powder Systems at Tetra Pak says, “Cheese has been a vital component of our nutrition for centuries and this is not set to change any time soon. Consumers are increasingly aware of the health benefits of cheese, and contemporary eating habits are increasingly moving towards snacking and grazing throughout the day. Its versatility has also come into its own during the pandemic, and to continue to maintain relevance cheese products need to demonstrate their ability to meet a range of usage occasions.

“With 50 years of expertise in cheese production, from milk intake through to packaging, we welcome people’s interest in the process. The events of the last year have made us all more aware of our surroundings and, in turn, our impact on the environment, so this renewed curiosity is perhaps not surprising.”

Testing new taste boundaries

Consumers are familiar with flavoured cheese, including herbs (61%), spices (54%) and pepper (50%). And they are becoming ever more adventurous in terms of taste and texture, with truffle (36%), salmon (34%), mushrooms and spices (33%) topping the list when considering what to try next. Overall, people crave salty flavoured cheese (47%). However, German consumers prefer spicy flavours (77%) while the Chinese palette is more attuned to sweetness (67%).

The rather new phenomenon of plant-based cheese is rising in popularity too. While only a quarter (24%) have tried it, over half (53%) would be interested in trying it in the future. Asia Pacific countries show the most interest – India (86%) and China (82%) – closely followed by Brazil (60%) and South Africa (59%). However, German consumers (36%) and American consumers (32%) are less tempted. The top triggers for trying plant-based cheese include its natural origins (43%), which links back to the production process, as well as – unexpectedly - taste (37%).

Keeping up with demand

To keep up with demand, Tetra Pak has recently developed 14 new state-of-the-art Best Practice Lines (BPLs) for cheese manufacturers, the latest of which – specifically customised for Cottage cheese – launched today. The other cheeses that will benefit from these BPLs include Mozzarella, Semi-hard cheese, Cheddar, and Fresh cheese production. Together, these cheese types make up 79% of all cheese volumes and have a CAGR forecast of 3% (2021-2025).

Leveraging over 50 years of experience in the cheese category, the biggest dairy food segment in the world at 42% share (and more than 27Billion Kg), the new BPL concepts provide a complete production solution for customers, optimised to fit their needs. The processing lines utilise proven equipment combined with industry-leading expertise to create a safe and easy route to profitable cheese production with a higher yield, while incorporating the traditional cheesemaking techniques. The hygienic production process enables a longer product shelf life, as well as consistent and replicable quality. Sustainability is also a factor, with solutions focusing on reducing water, steam, and power consumption.

Media contacts for more information

Jane Jarosz, Tetra Pak , Tel: +39 059 89 8954