'Ample room' for cheese innovation in Latin America, says Mintel

By Mary Ellen Shoup contact

- Last updated on GMT

A soft texture cheese was preferred over hard cheeses among many Latin American consumers, Mintel reported. ©GettyImages/CentralITAlliance
A soft texture cheese was preferred over hard cheeses among many Latin American consumers, Mintel reported. ©GettyImages/CentralITAlliance

Related tags: Mintel, Cheese, Latin america

Latin American consumers are looking for more flavor options when it comes to cheese, representing an untapped market opportunity for manufacturers as just 12% of new cheese introductions in the region between January 2017 and April 2018 were flavored options, according to Mintel.

Latin America's flavored cheese introductions lag behind other international markets such as Europe and North America where new flavored options accounted for 22% and 25%, respectively, during the same time period. 

Consumer interest among Latin American consumers for flavored cheese products is strong, Mintel reported. Nearly eight in 10 Brazilians surveyed they want to try more flavors in cheese such as cranberry and herbs.

In fact, many consumers are seeking out flavor profiles similar to what can be found in other international markets, said Mintel food & drink research manager Sarah Theodore.

Flavor innovation and experimenting with exotic tastes has been a trend seen in other dairy segments including butter​ within Latin America. As previously reported, introduces butter products with more savory and/or spicy flavors are the "obvious routes" to encourage more usage occasions. 

“When looking at flavored cheese launches, Latin America doesn’t differ significantly from other regions, with vegetable (think tomato flavors, artichoke, pepper, etc) and herbal flavors accounting for the most product introductions,”​ Theodore to FoodNavigator-LATAM.

Theodore added that there are some flavor preference variations by country and by occasion (i.e. snacking vs. breakfast, lunch, and dinner).

“Adding flavor to an already-preferred type of cheese, or packaging that cheese with other flavor additions as we’ve seen with some cheese snack packs, can be a way to combine a bit of ‘new’ into something consumers are already familiar with,”​ Theodore said.

“Highlighting the good-for-you qualities of cheese can be a draw for consumers. The main reason people buy cheese, however, will always be taste.”

Texture innovation

A significant portion of Latin American consumers say they prefer a soft cheese texture and in Brazil, flavor currently ranks behind texture as the main purchase driver for cheese.

According to Mintel, one-third of Brazilians say a “soft texture” is an influential factor in selecting cheese compared to 17% who reported the type of flavor is the top purchase factor.

In addition, younger consumers appear to be the most interested in flavored cheese – one in five aged 16-34 cite flavor as a purchase factor.

Snacking represents biggest opportunity for cheese

Theodore noted that more cheese brands are making a play into the snacking space with convenient, on-the-go options.

“Consumers have always snacked on cheese, but it’s only recently that brands have made a special effort to target that occasion,”​ she said.

“In Colombia, Éxito offers a private label line of fruit-filled cheeses that are individually wrapped for snacking.”

According to Theodore, there is ample room for innovation in the cheese snacking space throughout Latin America with many more formats that can be explored.

Suggested food and drink pairing with space is another opportunity for cheese to be introduced into more parts of the day, Theodore added. Because while consumers report using cheese in a number of different ways, there is a desire for advice on cheese in terms of pairing recommendations and specific uses.

 Flavored versions of commonly used cheese – such as mozzarella – can give consumers the confidence to cook with cheese more often.

“A couple pairing suggestions on pack could do a lot to spark the imagination, especially if consumers are thinking about entertaining or a special occasion,” ​Theodore said.

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