ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Upscale cheeses like Asiago and Gorgonzola are helping the retail cheese category reach new heights, and helping boost overall dairy sales in the process, according to an annual survey by Dairy Management Inc.
According to multiple sources used by DMI to glean volume and sales movement through the supermarket channel, cheese was the No. 2 sales driver in the dairy aisle, second only to fluid milk. Cheese garnered 19.2% of sales during the 52-week period ended Sept. 2, 2000; milk generated 41% of sales.
However, cheese secured the top spot in terms of net profit. An earlier study conducted by DMI, Understanding How to Drive Dairy Department Performance, concluded that cheese had a true profit of 33.2%, with butter/margarine second, at 31.2%.
This bodes well for retailers looking to boost sales as the winter holiday entertaining season approaches, since consumers snacked most on the item during the four weeks ended Dec. 25, 1999 -- when they ate nearly 175 million pounds of cheese. Using ACNielsen Super Scantrak data (which includes supercenters, but excludes cream cheese sales), DMI found that consumption remained high through late February, following the holiday-time peak.
In the store, retailers are finding double-digit volume and dollar-sales increases over the same period a year ago, according to DMI's review of Nielsen data. Asiago led the pack with the highest volume growth over last year, at 41% (sales increased 40.6%). While gorgonzola was second in terms of volume (32.7%), it enjoyed the highest sales increase, 43.7%.
Indeed, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumers have an increasing appetite for cheese. In 1999, per-capita consumption broke the 30-pound mark, up more than one pound from the year before, and up almost three pounds from 1995.
Other top movers in the retail cheese category include: provolone (up 31.2% in volume and 35.3% in sales), Muenster (26.8% and 31.6%), Havarti (19.2% and 29.5%) and Colby Jack (22.4% and 19.3%).
Special promotions and sales helped to propel growth, according to DMI examination of the ACNielsen numbers. It found that Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack varieties had the highest percentage of pounds sold on promotion. Colby registered 41.2%, Cheddar had 39.2% and Monterey Jack saw 38.8%.