Cheese is universally popular, with nine in 10 adults buying it. According to Mintel data, most of these people will eat it in a sandwich while many others like it on toast. Its mass appeal means that consumers will expect to find it in their local forecourt store.

Adam Mehegan, shopper marketing manager at Dairy Crest, says consumers will expect to see the brand names they know and trust. "Cheese buyers are willing to pay more for branded products, presenting retailers with an opportunity for incremental growth," he adds.

He advises retailers to focus on the breadth of their offering, not the depth of the range. "They should maximise the different types of cheese available by avoiding duplication to ensure a good breadth of range.

"For example, stock only one pack size per cheese type, as well as just one brand per type. A wider range of cheese will allow retailers to meet a higher number of shopping missions and usage occasions in the home.

"Stocking a variety of sizes, tastes and brands is key. Consider a range of different strengths of Cheddar, as well as continental, speciality and recipe cheeses. Different formats are also important. For example, the sliced and grated market, which is currently growing by 8.4% year-on-year (Nielsen), offers genuine convenience for customers with products such as Cathedral City mature sliced and grated."

Katy Ryan, global category director for Adams Foods, believes there’s a big opportunity to increase the cheese consumer’s repertoire.

"With 5.6bn meal occasions in the UK including cheese last year, we must zoom in and understand each key moment with the consumer and shopper. If we can bring to life versatility and width of appeal at these points, we will help people think differently and deliver the next stage of growth. One more portion a week could add £350m to the category (Nielsen).

"Consumers want to be inspired but they are faced with a huge range and little in the way of advice.

Adams Foods is committed to challenging the status quo with a new way of talking about cheese to engage consumers once more."

To help consumers ’engage’ with Cheddar, Adams Foods recently relaunched its Pilgrims Choice brand. The core range of mature Cheddar, extra mature Cheddar, vintage Cheddar, lighter mature and lighter extra mature cheese all received a new livery and brand identity. And currently under way is a campaign to drive awareness of the quality and taste credentials of the Pilgrims Choice lighter variants.

The campaign kicked off with eight weeks of press advertising in key women’s titles, featuring the line ’Lighter and Damn proud of it’.

This has been developed to help dispel the myth that low-fat Cheddar can be tasteless.

The press campaign will run alongside a nationwide sampling roadshow, hosted by a team of Pilgrims Choice cowboys. And this month, Pilgrims Choice Lighter will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest blind taste test. Taking place at Manchester’s Trafford Centre, the brand is inviting Mancunians to put on a blindfold and see if they believe Pilgrims Choice Lighter is as strong and punchy as the brand says it is. Participants will also be in with a chance of winning an iPad mini.

Brand controller at Adams Foods, Mike Harper, says: "In partnership with our creameries, we’ve worked hard to establish recipes for our lighter variants that are 30% less fat without any taste compromise, we now want to raise awareness of these products."

Pilgrims Choice mature lighter and extra mature lighter’s 30% less fat status is thanks to a blend of skimmed and full fat milk. The variants have already won awards for taste, including lighter extra mature scoring Gold in the lighter cheese category at the 2012 National Cheese Awards.

Health has been a long-term trend within the cheese category with, according to Mintel, a ’sizeable minority’ of consumers looking for a wider variety of healthier cheeses.

Dairy Crest’s Mehegan says Cathedral City mature lighter fits perfectly with this trend, "offering a great-tasting cheese that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced and active lifestyle".

And he expects the lighter sector to continue to grow over the next three years as demand for lighter products with no sacrifice on taste increases.

Cheesey bites

Cathedral City Selections contains individually wrapped pieces of cheese to encourage in-home snacking. There are three lines: mature, extra mature and a variety pack.
Leerdammer is the number one selling sliced cheese brand (Nielsen). The lower fat version Leerdammer Lightlife, contains 38% less fat than original Leerdammer and 50% less fat than standard Cheddar.
Kraft Foods’ Philadelphia with Cadbury product has been extended to include a snacking format featuring the chocolate cheese with mini oaties for dipping.
According to Nielsen data, Mini Babybel is the number one cheese snack. Sixty per cent of the cheese is eaten by children, particularly as part of a lunchbox.

The white stuff

Stocking Cravendale milk can help you maximise availability and limit wastage. That’s because it uses a ceramic filtration system which removes more of the bacteria that turns milk sour. This means it stays fresher for longer seven days once opened and 21 days unopened, which is more than twice as long as standard fresh milk.
Research shows that consumers spend only three seconds at the milk fixture, so Cravendale recommends the following tips to help maximise sales:
Display ideally merchandise by fat type to encourage trade up from standard fresh. Shoppers buy according to colour, ie green equals semi-skimmed, and format, ie size.
Space ensure that sufficient space is allocated to each fat type. Semi-skimmed sells best so deserves more space than skimmed or whole.
Choice shoppers can be traded up if another option is clearly available and visible beside standard milk eg Cravendale.
Link saves 37% of milk usage is with cereal, an offer can attract an impulse sale.
Sophie Macaulay, brand manager at Cravendale, says: "It’s our opinion that link saves with milk are really important for convenience stores. We’ve seen these work really well already. We have to remember that shoppers are more price-conscious than ever before and are aware of the ongoing supermarket price wars, therefore it’s vital to offer them value for money."
Cravendale has just stepped into the food-to-go fixture for the first time, launching a 500ml PET bottle, in whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed variants, with a rrp of 75p. It is already listed by Shell, Esso, Rontec, Budgens and Londis.