High-protein is a message that strongly resonates with today’s consumers as it is recognised for a wide range of benefits, including increased satiety and energy levels, thus supporting common health goals like weight loss and fitness.

According to research from Mintel, around three-quarters of consumers in Germany agree that eating a healthy and balanced diet generally will provide the amount of protein the body needs. Yet, around half of all respondents claim that it is hard to know if they are getting enough protein on a daily basis.

Profiting from an inherently healthy image and regarded a naturally rich source of protein, cheese is well positioned to capitalize on the nutrient’s popularity.

A more overt protein focus

Strongly relying on their inherent protein-rich image, very few cheeses launched in Europe in the last year leveraged their protein content as an on-pack marketing claim. Yet, the growing wealth of protein-promoting alternatives, in particular within the exploding snacking segment, is challenging the cheese category to rise to the occasion. While still niche overall, some cheese brands have started to position their products more explicitly as rich protein sources, targeting younger consumers.

While the vast majority of protein-promoting cheese launches in Europe in 2016 were hard/semi-hard cheese, Germany stands out for putting a stronger focus on sour-milk cheese. Käserei Loose, which belongs to Müller Group, strongly promotes its ”Quäse“, a high-protein, low-fat quark-based cheese, on a fitness platform. For some years now, the brand has been the main sponsor of the Tough Mudder obstacle race. With recent launches such as Quäse Salad Cheese Sticks in convenient-sized packaging, the brand is striving to boost its appeal as a snacking option for healthy eaters both at home and on-the-go.

Cheese snacks of the future

Targeting young, health-seeking snackers, a new wave of nutrient-dense cheese products that cross the lines between “snacks” and “meals” is coming to the market. The US leads the way with products such as Sargento Balanced Breaks variety packs which combine cheese with nuts and dried fruit. In Europe, the UK’s Kerry Foods adds new variety to the shelf under its innovative GoGo’s Gorgeous Goodness brand, which teams cheese bites with other nibbles such as dark chocolate covered coffee beans, edamame beans, pretzels and mini flapjacks.

Another angle of innovation is blurring the line between cheese and crisps, with a number of shelf-stable launches positioned as trendy and premium high-protein snacks appearing in the market. A prominent example is the Italian Groksì! brand by San Lucio, which offers oven-baked snack bites made with real Grana Padano cheese in a variety of flavours. Germany’s retailer Netto launched a similar product in 2017, and comparable snacks can be observed emerging across Europe.

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                      Netto:                                                                                   Kerry Foods:                                                                    Käserei Loose:
Knuspriger Käsesnack                                                 GoGo’s Gorgeous Goodness                                        Quäse Salad Cheese Sticks

Julia Büch is a Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. She specialises in delivering insights on issues affecting the German food and drink market, providing analysis across a range of food and drink categories. Previously Trend & Innovation Consultant at Mintel, Julia was responsible for providing tailored product innovation analysis and client support primarily to Mintel’s German speaking clients.

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