Cheese lovers who haven’t recently visited the Greenwich Village flagship location of Murray’s Cheese shop will definitely be surprised when they return. This iconic New York City store, which debuted more than 70 years ago, completed a remodeling project in June that nearly doubled the retail display area. Murray’s is now a 2,600-sq.-ft. specialty store with a new grilled cheese bar, more grocery and prepared food options, and new classrooms where tastings and seminars are held.
The Whey to Deli Profit
Cheese Production, Consumption on the Rise
By Ed Avis
Want dine-in service, rather than take-out? Murray’s offers more cheesy offerings nearby. Just down the street, hungry shoppers can grab
U.S. PER CAPITA CHEESE CONSUMPTION
hand-crafted, made-to-order grilled cheese sandwiches, along with a limited selection of soups, salads, desserts and sides. They now boast four locations in Maryland, the wealthiest state in the nation, including Baltimore, Catonsville, Sykesville, and the newest location, which opened May 1, in Gambrills.
“Grilled cheese is what we do. It is what we stand behind! It is what defines us,” co-owners Matt Lancelotta and Vic Corbi explain on the company’s website.
Wherever they buy it, customers are consuming more cheese in more formats than ever before. And that means in-store service delis, sandwich shops and manufacturers alike can benefit by giving those customers a broad range of cheeses from which to choose.
brunch, lunch or dinner in Murray’s Cheese Bar, a neighborhood staple since it opened in 2012.
A bit farther south, customers in Maryland can sate their cheese cravings with a trip to Grilled Cheese & Co (www.ilovegrilledcheese.com). This “comfort casual” restaurant actually started life as a food truck in May 2009 before morphing into a stand-alone restaurant in April 2010. The restaurant features
The future looks bright, as well: Packaged Facts projects that retail dollar sales of natural and specialty cheeses, which totaled $15.7 billion in 2013, will reach $19 billion in 2018, while WMMB and USDA projections show per capita consumption rising to 36.8 pounds by 2022.
U.S. cheese production has more than doubled over the past quarter century, reaching a peak total of 10.89 billion pounds in 2012, U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show. Cheese consumption, too, is at an all-time high. According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) and USDA data, per capita cheese consumption jumped from 24.1 pounds per person in 1987 to 33.5 pounds in 2012.
“Americans’ love of cheese and the wider availability of quality cheeses at more affordable prices have helped drive growth,” says the Packaged Facts report, Cheese: Natural & Specialty Cheeses in the U.S. & Global Markets (www.packagedfacts.com/Cheese-Natural-Specialty-8068753), published in March 2014.
“Continuing an upward trend, the total production of natural cheese in the United States exceeded 10 billion pounds in 2012...[and] production grew at a CAGR of 2.5% between 2008 and 2012. The USDA estimated that production rose about 2% in 2013,” the report notes.
Industry Data and Trends
Per capita cheese consumption in pounds. * Projected. Source: USDA/ERS, Dairy Data: FAPRI-MU, U.S. Baseline Briefing Book, March 2013.
“U.S. consumers are getting more adventurous in their food choices and that includes cheese. The specialty cheese segment is the fastest growing segment of the cheese market, but convenient choices have been limited to only a few varieties.”
—Becky Ryan, director of marketing, Emmi Roth USA
What's Driving Flavor Trends
The broadening of the American palette beyond cheddar and mozzarella, combined with consumers’ increasing interest in healthy eating and “clean” labels, is driving growth of higher priced natural, specialty and ethnic cheeses—think aged and artisanal products with robust flavor profiles and textures, Packaged Facts reports.
“Even mass brands and private label store brands are meeting consumer desire for bolder flavors, with smoky, peppery, and gourmet varieties most prevalent,” the report says.
Emmi Roth USA has taken note of that desire by introducing premium specialty cheese in a sliced format.
Boosting Cheese Sales In-Store
With competition heating up throughout the food retailing industry, traditional supermarkets are feeling the squeeze. As Packaged Facts points out, big box retailers like Costco and higher-end grocers like Whole Foods are challenging stores that serve a broad middle market. Expanding and upgrading cheese inventories is one way to compete.
Publix, for example, has not only expanded its cheese offerings; the company now offers several private label Publix Deli Specialty Cheeses including Imported Swiss Gruyere, Imported Aged Cheddar, and Spanish Manchego. At natural- and organic-themed Publix Greenwise Markets, customers can choose from more than 300 artisan cheeses, stored in a "cheese cave" that offers the optimal humidity and temperatures needed to house delicate cheeses at different stages of maturation.
Giant Eagle, Inc. is also relatively new to the game. In August 2012, the company opened its first Market District food store in Northeast Ohio. Inspired by Europian open-air markets, it includes an artisan cheese shop with more than 400 domestic and imported cheeses. Giant Eagle also staffs Certified Cheesemongers, who wear black berets and are responsible for all aspects of the specialty cheese department, at several of its stores.
“Increasingly these supermarkets are going upscale, either by upgrading their cheese departments with more specialty cheeses and higher levels of service, or opening new stores that mimic the Whole Foods model,” the Packaged Facts report says. “Supermarkets see artisan cheese as a way to compete and differentiate themselves…an upscale cheese department can enhance store image much like a specialty bakery.”
Successful grocers are also adding more specialty foods that pair with cheese including dried fruits and nuts, artisanal meats, pate, hummus, and fine olive oils and vinegars, the report notes.
“U.S. consumers are getting more adventurous in their food choices and that includes cheese. The specialty cheese segment is the fastest growing segment of the cheese market, but convenient choices have been limited to only a few varieties,” says Becky Ryan, director of marketing, when asked what prompted the company to expand its cheese offerings.
“At the same time, we see restaurants upping the flavors of their sandwiches and burgers with more interesting cheese choices. Since sandwiches account for more than 40 percent of in-home usage of cheese, we wanted to make it easy for consumers to up the flavor of their own sandwiches and burgers at home,” she continues. “We have been offering sliced specialty cheeses to our foodservice customers for many years. The consumer packs are new for us in the last year.”
The company currently offers eight different varieties in the deli sliced line, including its signature Grand Cru© Alpine-style; five varieties of Havarti, including bold flavors like Horseradish and Jalapeño; plus smoked natural gouda and a plain gouda. All are packaged in convenient, resealable bags. To make food prep as convenient as possible for home chefs, Ryan notes that Emmi Roth includes a chef-developed recipe with a photo on each package. Indicative of the way consumers have embraced cheese, Ryan reports that the company is “very pleased with the results so far.”
Teaming with well-known, independent cheese shops is another way supermarkets are upping the ante where cheese merchandising and marketing are concerned.
The Kroger Co.’s partnership with Murray’s Cheese Shop is one example. Murray’s has opened cheese counters in stores across the country, and is accelerating expansion with some 60 new stores slated to open within Kroger banner stores in 2014. Ralphs, a Kroger subsidiary, debuted its newest store in Sherman Oaks, Calif. on April 10, complete with an in-store Murray's Cheese Shop that stocks more than 175 kinds of cheese. They include dozens of local varieties, plus a wide selection of specialty crackers and dried fruits, as well as an olive and antipasto bar. Murray's Cheese Shops can also be found at Ralphs supermarkets in Long Beach, Studio City and West Los Angeles.
No one can predict exactly where the cheese market is headed, or how consumers will react to the evolving and expanding offerings. One thing, however, appears to be certain: Cheese, in its many forms, is here to stay. And companies who want to capture a significant share of category sales should consider how they plan to merchandise and market cheese products.
“Growth will be driven by Americans’ enduring love for the product, the continued desire to eat and entertain at home, and the continued promotion of cheese as fundamentally nutritious and good tasting,” the Packaged Facts report concludes.
Begin by roasting the chiles over the flame on your stovetop (or under the broiler) until the skin is totally blackened (if using fresh). When the chiles are totally charred, throw them into a plastic bag. Seal and allow them to steam and cool.
Next, pour the white vinegar over the sliced red onion and let them sit awhile. This'll take away a little of the crazy onion flavor and leave them with a nice sweetness.
Finally, make the special sauce: equal amounts of mayonnaise and Dijon. It's the simple things in life!
When you're ready to make the sandwiches, scrape the blackened skin off the chiles. Scrape out the seeds, too, so you'll wind up with big pieces of roasted green chiles.
For each sandwich, generously spread 2 pieces of rye bread with the special sauce. Lay on 2 slices of provolone, 2 slices of tomato, 2 slices of Cheddar... a nice layer of roasted green chiles... a few red onion slices... and one more slice of provolone just to hold it all together. Top with the other slice of bread and spread the outsides with a good amount of butter.
Toast the sandwich in a skillet over medium-low heat until the cheese is thoroughly melted inside. Be careful not to burn the bread!
Best Grilled Cheese Ever
Recipe courtesy Ree Drummond & The Food Network
SHOW: The Pioneer Woman
EPISODE: Simply the Best
4 poblano or Anaheim chiles (or you may use canned whole green chiles)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
8 slices rye bread
12 slices provolone
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced
8 slices Cheddar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
Total Time: 35 min
Prep: 25 min
Cook: 10 min
Yield: 4 servings