Caroline Roux
As a Global Food & Drink Analyst, Caroline provides consumer insights and recommendations to dairy companies and tracks global innovation and consumer trends.

While dairy continues to be a staple in Australia, consumers today are eating less cheese. In fact, data from Mintel Market Sizes shows that Australia’s cheese market has grown at a sluggish pace over the last five years. In contrast, the yoghurt and milk sectors have been growing in value at faster average rates.

Private label cheese has been gaining share in Australia in recent years, however, with quite a discrepancy between value (29%) and volume (42%) share—this suggests that private label cheese is the entry-level option in Australia.

Australia’s private label is not leveraging its dominance of the market to build value into the cheese category. In some other markets, retailers have managed to establish their private label on both sides of the spectrum: as the value option and as the top-end choice. In the UK, for example, retailers offer low price ranges of private label cheese, alongside premium ranges. UK retailers’ three-tier strategy has allowed them to grab a significant share of the cheese market, according to Mintel research.

Private label is not acting like a category leader; Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD) reveals that in the last four years, it accounted for just over a tenth of cheese innovation in Australia. Owed to a lack of novelty, consumers are likely to buy cheese out of habit, giving price a critical role in their decision making process. Introducing new products will allow private label to be less competitive on price.

Imported cheeses are pushed on to locavore Australians

Locally made/grown products drive purchase for over one in three metro consumers in Australia. In fact, three in 10 say they are willing to pay a premium for local products. When consumers are making decisions about everyday products, many favour locally made products over those from a favourite brand.

Yet, as milk production declines, and Australian dairy companies choose to export their products to markets offering better returns, Australian consumers are offered a wider choice of imported cheese. In fact, the share of imported cheese saw notable increases in the four years to August 2017, according to Mintel GNPD.

Consumers will be able to make informed choices when the new Australian Made labelling system—that reflects where a product has been grown, made or packaged—becomes mandatory for businesses selling food through retail, beginning July 2018.

As Australia’s cheese market recovers from a couple of challenging years, it now has an opportunity to renew with growth through innovation. Both locally made and imported cheese, regardless if they are sold under private label or brand names, have a role to play in delivering more value to consumers, and decommodising the market. Cheese-loving Australians are ready to be enticed by new cheese types and formats appearing in stores.

Caroline Roux has been with Mintel since 2010 and is currently Research Manager for Mintel Food and Drink. A specialist dairy analyst, Caroline provides robust consumer insights and realistic recommendations to dairy companies, and tracks global innovation and consumer trends to assist clients in their growth strategies.