U.S. Cheese Market: Consumption Growth Buoyed By Record Output Figures

Dairy Products September 28, 2017
Author: Sergey Avramenko
Head of Global Markets Research Team

cheese market

Photo: © R.Babakin / Bigstockphoto

The U.S. cheese market is sizeable, recording strong performance figures. According to market research conducted by IndexBox, U.S. cheese consumption increased steadily over the last nine years, amounting to 5.4 million tonnes in 2016. In wholesale prices, the U.S. cheese market amounted to 40 billion USD in 2016, which remained almost unchanged against the level of 2015. This figure reflects total revenue of cheese producers and importers (excluding logistics costs, retail marketing costs, and retailers’ margins, which will be included in the final consumer price). Domestic cheese producers enjoy approx. 96% of the total market value, leaving only 4% for imported products. Given a sustainable trend pattern of the output growth in physical terms, the market value fluctuated mildly from 2007 to 2016 due to producer prices variation.

As for U.S. cheese imports, the imports value totaled a tangible figure of 1.3 billion USD in 2016, falling for the first time over the past five year period. In physical terms, imports surged by 12% in 2016 to 196 thousand tonnes, with growth figure of 12% from the previous year. Despite the large volume of imports, its share in consumption did not exceed 4% in value terms and 5% in physical terms, and it is not likely to increase significantly. Due to such low trade intensity, import should not be regarded as a strong factor influencing U.S. market dynamics in the medium term. The well-developed cheese industry and the high competitiveness of U.S. enterprises enable local manufacturers to almost entirely meet domestic demand.

The U.S. exported 1.2 billion USD of cheese in 2016, but this figure declined over the last two years. Exports observed an upward trend from 2007 to 2014, but this trend conceded to a 19% decline in 2015, slumping further with a 13% fall in 2016. In physical terms, the trend pattern was the same: exports dropped to 290 thousand tonnes, a  decrease of 9% against the previous year and 22% less than the peak exports figure recorded in 2014.

In 2016, the main destinations for U.S. cheese exports were Mexico (31%, based on tonnes), South Korea (15%), Japan (10%), Australia (5%) and Canada (5%). Exports to all of these countries experienced a positive dynamic from 2007 to 2016. The share exported to Korea (+6 percentage points) and Australia (+3 percentage points) increased, while the share sent to Canada (-5 percentage points) and Mexico (-2 percentage points) contracted. The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period. 

Strong U.S. cheese output figures also help to drive domestic cheese consumption, as the share of imports in consumption is almost negligible. Over the past nine year period, U.S. cheese production has started to surge, peaking in 2016. Robust competition on an already saturated cheese market is helping to generate the emergence of different cheese types and varieties; these often boast a unique flavour and a range of added additional textures, as well as frequently featuring farm-based 'environmentally-friendly' products.

In 2016, Italian-type cheese represented the major share of U.S. cheese production (44%), followed by American-type cheese (39%). Italian-type cheeses continue to account for a growing percentage of total U.S. cheese production. The U.S. production of these cheese types totaled a record figure of 2.4 million tonnes in 2016, which was 4% (or 96 thousand tonnes) more than the year before.

Among the Italian cheese types, Mozzarella production was the largest, with 1.9 million tonnes, or 78% of the total Italian cheese output. Hard Provolone and Parmesan each accounted for 8% of total Italian cheese output, followed by Ricotta and similars (6%).

The most notable growth of production in terms of Italian style cheeses was recorded in Parmesan production, from 78 thousand tonnes in 2007, to 181 thousand tonnes in 2016. Mozzarella and Hard Provolone cheese also illustrated a positive dynamic, growing by +2.4% and +2.3%, respectively over the last nine years.

Although American-type cheeses still account for a declining percentage of total U.S. cheese production, the production of these cheese types broke another record last year. In 2016, the production of American-type cheeses amounted to 2.2 million tonnes, 1% more than in 2015. American-type cheeses include such famous cheese varieties as Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack. Cheddar cheese production is the largest within the American cheese category. In 2016, the production of this cheese type stood at 1.6 million tonnes, which amounted to 72% in terms of the American-type cheeses.

Rising cheese consumption has been aided by a wider variety of cheeses being readily available, increased away-from-home eating, and ethnic cuisines that employ cheese as a major ingredient now becoming more popular. The increasing popularity for artisanal cheeses and advertising of different varieties of cheese from retailers and cheese producers will also result in an increase in sales; this also applies to the specialty cheese category. On the other hand, due to the fact that cheese is a well-known food item, there is currently no reason to expect any dramatic shifts in consumption patterns.

Cheese is also prominently used as both a component and ingredient in fast-food products (pizza, sandwiches, hamburgers and pasta), which are all highly popular in the U.S. As disposable household income figures continue to rise, the consumption of food in various public catering establishments, such as restaurants, is increasing, thereby implying that U.S. cheese consumption will continue to grow.

Do you want to know more about the U.S. cheese market? Get the latest trends and insight from our report. It includes a wide range of statistics on

  • cheese market share
  • cheese prices
  • cheese industry
  • cheese sales
  • cheese market forecast
  • cheese price forecast
  • key cheese producers

Source: U.S. Cheese Market. Analysis And Forecast