Brits have continued to abandon Cheddar, with consumption falling another five percentage points as concerns emerge over the category’s engagement with under-35s.

Mintel’s annual cheese report found that 82% of UK consumers bought Cheddar cheese in the three months to July 2015, down from 87% for the corresponding period last year. Volume sales were also down, falling by 3% during the past two years to an estimated 181 million kg in 2015.

Mintel senior food analyst Richard Ford said Cheddar’s share of the total cheese market - although still dominant - was expected to fall from 51% in 2013 to 48% in 2015.

He attributed the decline to stronger performance by other cheese types - particularly Continental cheeses - as well as changing consumer habits, with 14% of cheese buyers saying they were buying less block cheese than they did a year ago.

Some 90% of consumers aged 65 and over bought Cheddar in the three months to July 2015, compared with just 74% of those aged under 35, said Ford, and this could raise long-term concerns over engagement with the category if the trend persisted with age.

He urged producers to introduce more “excitement to the table” to boost sales.

“Cheddar, as the nation’s go-to cheese, is the most exposed to changes in wider consumer trends such as shifts in usage of carrier products like bread,” Ford added. 

“What’s more, Cheddar’s popularity as by far the most widely bought cheese in UK retail also looks like its downfall, as most consumers fail to see it as good for special occasions - this could hamper its ability to capitalise on Brits’ increased spending power as real incomes grow in 2015.”

On a more positive note, Mintel research also revealed a strong interest in product innovation, with 53% of Brits open to seeing recipes that use cheese in unusual ways, and 51% of consumers seeing Cheddar as good for use in cooking, while 70% of cheese buyers listed Cheddar as their perfect cheese snack for eating on the go, against just 20% for Continental cheese.

Although Cheddar sales had slowed, the British cheese industry remained a robust sector, said Dairy UK CEO Dr Judith Bryans.

“Cheddar still accounts for almost half of all cheese consumed, cheese sales are increasing steadily overall and nine out of 10 British consumers buy cheese regularly,” she added.

“The report’s positive conclusions on cheese as a healthy go-to snack are also an excellent indicator of consumer understanding of the nutritional benefits of cheese. However, the industry is never complacent and is working hard on how to enhance the promotion of our great British cheeses and their nutritional benefits.”