It's a question that has the potential to be as divisive as Leave vs Remain, Tory vs Labour, or Strictly vs X-Factor. 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.
New research from Mintel's latest Cheese report
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.
When looking into the regional differences, it seems it is a nation divided. 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%) UK 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.
And 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, UK consumers are estimated to buy 356 million kg of cheese in 2017, while sales of chocolate are forecast to reach 444 million kg.
Richard Caines, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, said:
“When it comes to the battle between cheese and chocolate, two great British indulgences, cheese more than holds its own. It is a menu staple in the vast majority of UK homes.
Recipes and ideas for using cheese with meals offer significant scope for driving increased usage and cementing British consumers’ love of cheese.”
Overall, nine in 10 (91%) Brits have bought cheese in the past 3 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%) UK cheese buyers consider themselves a cheese connoisseur
, peaking at 42% of men aged 25-44.
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 UK 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 favourite cheese, Cheddar. Indeed, just three in five (60%) Londoners have bought cheddar in the past three months, below a UK average of 72%.
On the other hand, consumers in Yorkshire and Humberside are the most likely to favour 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 UK 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. 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.” Richard adds.
Mintel research 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, emphasising that there is significant room for retailers to encourage trading up. 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.” Richard concludes.
*3 months to August 2017
Press review copies of the research and interviews with Richard Caines, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.