A cursory glance at recent sales figures for natural cheese might lead some to believe that the $7 billion category has finally lost a step. After years of booming growth, dollar sales of the commercially produced cheeses tracked by SymphonyIRI Group finally slipped by more than 5% during the latest 52 weeks ending June 13.
But, that’s only half of the story. Volume sales of natural cheese actually continued to grow during the past year by 4.2%. Slices and shredded cheeses saw the strongest gains, with unit sales up 8% and 5.8%, respectively. And, only cubed cheeses and refrigerated, grated cheeses saw volume declines — of 8.1% and 1.1%.
In fact, 2008 was the last time volume growth stalled out for natural cheese. That year, unit sales fell 1%, as commodity market volatility caused a huge spike in the price of animal feed, resulting in a sharp decline in dairy production and an equally sharp increase in dairy prices.