If Brits had to choose between cheese and chocolate, which would they pick? When Mintel asked the nation, cheese edged ahead — but it’s a close-run thing.
Research reveals that when asked if they had to “choose between never being able to eat cheese again or never being able to eat chocolate again,” 50% of British consumers say they would never eat chocolate, compared to 47% who would give up on cheese. Meanwhile, a contrarian 3% say they don’t like either, according to the firm’s Cheese, UK, 2017 report.
When it comes to the battle between cheese and chocolate, cheese more than holds its own. Research shows that over two in five Brits would pay more for cheese made by smaller or independent cheese-makers. There is significant room for retailers to encourage trading up. This can be achieved by having a separate cheese section for smaller cheese brands, similar to the craft beer segment.
When looking into the regional differences, it seems it is a nation divided. The report states that consumers living in Scotland (56%), West Midlands (52%), and the South East and East Anglia (52%) are the most likely to say they’d give up on chocolate. Meanwhile, the South West and Wales (50%), London (50%), and the North East and North West (49%) were the only regions where consumers are more likely to give up cheese.
It seems it’s younger consumers who have the sweetest tooth. Three in five (59%) U.K. consumers aged over 44 say they would give up chocolate, compared to 54% of those aged between 16 and 44 who would rather give up cheese.
While overall cheese just pips chocolate to the post in popularity stakes, it’s chocolate that Brits are buying more of. According to Mintel research, U.K. consumers are estimated to buy 356 million kg of cheese in 2017, while sales of chocolate are forecast to reach 444 million kg.
“When it comes to the battle between cheese and chocolate, two great British indulgences, cheese more than holds its own,” says Richard Caines, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel. “It is a menu staple in the vast majority of U.K. homes. Recipes and ideas for using cheese with meals offer significant scope for driving increased usage and cementing British consumers’ love of cheese.”
Cheddar is top pick
Overall, nine in 10 (91%) Brits have bought cheese in the past three months, with 72% buying cheddar, 37% regional British cheeses such as Red Leicester and Double Gloucester and 36% buying cream and soft cheese.
And while cheese may be a kitchen staple, a considerable proportion of the population are confident in their own status as turophiles. As many as one in four (25%) U.K. cheese buyers consider themselves a cheese connoisseur, peaking at 42% of men aged 25-44, according to Mintel.
Despite Londoners being among the most likely to say they’d give up cheese rather than chocolate, it is in the capital that you’d be most likely to sniff out an expert in fromage. Two in five (39%) Londoners consider themselves cheese connoisseurs, compared to just one in five (20%) of those in the West Midlands.
Indeed, Londoners have the most exotic tastes when it comes to cheese. Almost half (47%) of Londoners have bought continental cheese in the past three months, compared to a U.K. average of 37%, while 18% have bought goat or sheep’s cheese, compared to an average of 13%. Meanwhile, they’re less likely to have bought the nation’s favorite cheese, cheddar. Indeed, just three in five (60%) Londoners have bought cheddar in the past three months, below a U.K. average of 72%.
On the other hand, consumers in Yorkshire and Humberside are the most likely to favor regional British cheeses such as Red Leicester and Double Gloucester, with half (49%) of consumers in this region buying these cheese varieties in the past three months, above the U.K. average of 37%.
“The fact that a higher proportion of those living in London buy continental and goat or sheep’s cheese reflects both the diversity of the city’s population and the usage of such cheeses for meals influenced by foreign cuisine,” Caines notes. “Significant scope exists for cheese brands to offer ideas on using cheese in less traditionally British recipes. Sales of cheeses such as feta and halloumi have been growing, but further growth could come from taking more ideas from the cheese culture in other countries.”
Significant room for smaller brands
Mintel research also highlights that cheese is seen more positively than negatively in terms of nutrition. Over half (54%) say it is a good source of calcium, while 38% say it is a good source of protein. In comparison, less than three in 10 (27%) say it is high in saturated fat.
Looking to the future, many have artisanal tastes. Over two in five (42%) cheese buyers say they would pay more for cheese made by smaller or independent cheese-makers and three in 10 (29%) say they would like to see a wider range of cheese from different British regions.
“Our research shows that over two in five Brits would pay more for cheese made by smaller or independent cheese-makers, emphasizing that there is significant room for retailers to encourage trading up,” he explains. “This can be achieved through having a separate cheese section for smaller cheese brands similar to what we’re seeing in the craft beer segment.”