The changing needs of consumers in the Middle East and Africa mean that spreadable cheese is now a key opportunity for food producers in the cheese category.
However, category challenges exist: Spreadable cheese products must offer convenience, high-quality taste, nutrition, affordability and differentiation if producers are to meet consumers’ demands.
The global cheese market is growing, driven by increased awareness of its nutritional value, urbanisation and rising disposable incomes. This growth means spreadable cheese can be an important category for food manufacturers, with an expected growth rate of 2.9% CAGR in the Middle East and Africa between 2020-23.
Taking advantage of the category, however, requires in-depth knowledge and expertise – from access to the latest consumer insights and new product ideation and recipe prototyping capabilities through to processing and packaging solutions. Only with this level of knowledge and expertise can food producers meet consumers’ demands.
Consumer trends driving growth
- Cheese packages, on-the-go
Lifestyle changes are creating new consumption occasions for spreadable cheese products. As markets in the Middle East and Africa mature and develop, more women are going out to work and the type and place of work is changing, too. This means fewer people at home during the day and less time spent on food preparation, but more disposable income. This, in turn, impacts food choices and is driving a preference for convenient, pre-prepared products that can be easily stored and eaten anytime/anywhere.
This is where ambient is crucial – products that maintain their taste and quality without the need for refrigeration are practical. But, of course, convenience means more than not needing to place a product into the office refrigerator – it’s also about the product’s ease-of-use. Packaging needs to be fit-for-purpose and functional. The increasing demand for single-serve spreadable cheese packs for on-the-go and out-of-home consumption means exploring new types of packaging to meet consumers’ demands.
“Convenience” was the top ranked characteristic of packed cheese, chosen by 52% of consumers – well ahead of “price” at 20%. The same survey indicated that 38% of consumers would like to see innovation in packaging.
- Convenience and quality
To consumers, cheese is not simply a functional part of the foods they eat. On the contrary, it is a uniquely evocative food that triggers associations with indulgence, luxury and sensory pleasure. It’s therefore no surprise that taste and quality consistently emerge as drivers of brand choice for cheese products. In a 2019 survey of Egyptian consumers, taste and quality were ranked above expiration date and price when it came to choosing a brand of ambient cheese, while in the United Arab Emirates, great taste, soft texture and ease-of-spread were the most important purchasing factors.
In the Middle East and Africa, spreadable cheese is generally perceived as a nutritious product and as a healthy snack. In a recent survey of consumers in the United Arab Emirates, 84% of respondents said they would buy cheese fortified with calcium for their children and 76% would do so for cheese with added vitamins.
There is an opportunity for food manufacturers to build on this health association and to develop products with positive label claims while maintaining sensory properties. It is also important for food producers to consider how cheese is formulated, processed and packaged. Preservative-free products, for example, lend themselves to better-for-you and natural-type claims, because the products are clean and safe, and require fewer ingredients.
Consumers also want affordability, so any new products need to be available at the right price point. Alongside using market insights to identify where the market opportunity is, such as on-the-go and single-use, food manufacturers can improve affordability and reduce their risk profile by exploring how to generate cost-efficiencies at every stage of the new product development (NPD) process. This includes taking advantage of production technologies that optimise processes to support more cost-effective NPD.
Turn Opportunity into Reality
- Bring your formulation to market
Offering an affordable, nutritious and convenient spreadable cheese product may meet consumer demand, but for food producers, it is only half the battle. Why go through all of the effort of formulating a consumer-preferred product that does not stand out on the shelf?
Food manufacturers can help products stand out by incorporating eye-catching packaging that is visually-appealing, functional and more sustainable, and that clearly displays important information on-pack such as exciting new flavours and health claims.
- Meet Consumers’ Demands
Do you need to extend an existing range, create a new brand for single-serve to grow market share, or create spreadable cheese concepts that complement wider dairy category applications? If so, Tetra Pak’s end-to-end expertise can help you at every stage of your journey – from ideation to creation to consumption.
 Tetra Pak market data
2 Toluna Research, 2018
3 Phi: Mini U&A & Pack evaluation, 2019
4 Toluna Research, Online survey, 2020
5 Toluna Research, UAE, 2020