GERMANY - New research from market intelligence agency Mintel reveals Germany is a growing market for stronger variants of cheese.
The research looked at launches of new cheeses carrying claims such as “spicy”, “hearty”, “strong”, “intense”, “distinct”, “rustic” and “piquant”, to indicate that they were strong-flavoured.
Results from the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) showed that such launches have grown from just 10 per cent of total introductions in 2012 to 15 per cent in 2014 in the German hard and semi-hard cheese sector.
The trend is continuing, with nearly one in five (17 per cent) hard and semi-hard cheeses launched in Germany during the first six months of 2015 featuring one or more of these claims.
In 2014, only Austria (25 per cent) witnessed more launches of these descriptors, with Germany ahead of Sweden (13 per cent) and the UK (12 per cent). In Europe as a whole, “strong”/”spicy” descriptors have featured at a relatively stable rate of around one in 14 (7 per cent) non-flavoured hard cheese launches between 2012 and 2014.
Just as hearty cheese is growing in popularity, the number of “mild” cheese launches in Germany has declined, falling from 24 per cent of new hard cheese launches in 2012 to 16 per cent in 2014, with a similar development evident in wider Europe.
Julia Buech, Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said: “This development is set to gain further steam, as interest in high-quality and speciality cheese continues to grow.
"Whether cheese is positioned as traditional, healthy or exclusive, brands are increasingly looking to trigger consumers’ senses with more intense taste experiences.
"The cheese sector has seen a heat wave, with the addition of chilli and other spices and herbs aimed in particular at attracting younger consumers. Beyond that, brands are now increasingly seen to cater to more grown up, discerning palates.”
Mintel's research also found that while Germany’s grocery shelves boast a wide selection of cheese types, when it comes to filling their baskets, this great variety on offer presents a challenge for two thirds (63 per cent) of Germans.
The sentiment is considerably more pronounced than among neighbouring consumers. Indeed, just a quarter (26 per cent) of French shoppers are overwhelmed by the choice on offer, followed by Spanish (30 per cent), Polish (33 per cent) and Italians (46 per cent).
Alcohol-flavoured cheese on the rise
As part of the general trend towards stronger flavours, so called “wine cheese” has been receiving renewed attention in Europe.
Overall, Austria dominates launch activity in Europe, accounting for over one third (35 per cent) of “wine cheese” introductions between 2014 and October 2015, followed by Germany (29 per cent) and France (17 per cent).
“Many ‘wine cheeses’ are washed-rind types which are periodically cured in white or red wine to develop pungent, distinctive flavours. The combination of cheese with wine is widely considered a natural, classic culinary match.
"Translating that ‘perfect match’ into product innovation, the market has seen a growing focus on wine-infused varieties, targeting adventurous, yet grown-up palates with their overtly adult positioning,” Ms Beuch said.
While wine-infused cheese is a classic, brands are also increasingly moving beyond the grape and towards other alcoholic flavours.
Apart from wine, according to Mintel GNPD, the top used alcohol flavours in new cheese launches in Europe between 2014 and October 2015 were beer (32 per cent), calvados (11 per cent), cider (8 per cent), brandy/Armagnac (6 per cent) and whiskey (6 per cent).
The most notable upswing has come from beer, with a share in alcohol-flavoured cheese launches that has jumped to 40 per cent between January and October 2015, up from 22 per cent over the same period in 2012, bringing beer on par with wine in launch activity.
“The increased launch activity in the beer-flavoured cheese sector reflects a wider, growing acceptance of beer’s capacity to pair with all kinds of foods, which is expressed, for example, by the emergence of beer sommeliers in recent years,” concluded Ms Beuch.
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