Sales of ‘lighter’ cheese are booming, as health-conscious Brits switch from full-fat and half fat options.

‘Healthy’ blocks are currently the only part of the UK block cheese category that is in growth, with volumes up 5.6% to 9,800 tonnes and value up 2.8% to just under £70m on [Nielsen MAT 52 w/e 5 January].

During the same period, sales of block Cheddar fell 5.3% by volume and 4% by value, and blocks of regional cheeses declined by 10.5% and 10.2% in volume and value.

Growth in healthy cheeses is being driven by products that offer moderate reductions in fat: volumes of ‘lighter’ cheese - which typically contain about 22% fat compared with 35% for standard Cheddar - are up by 8.2% year on year, whereas half-fat cheeses (containing just 15% fat) are down by 6.8% in volume [Nielsen].

“Shoppers are switching from full-fat to reduced-fat cheeses but also trading up from half-fat,” said Alastair Jackson, marketing director at Adams Foods, which says it makes about 50% of ‘lighter’ cheese on sale in the UK.

Improvements in recipes and retailers giving more space to own-label lighter cheeses - as well as greater featured space support - had also helped buoy the ‘lighter’ market, he added.

Most of the large Cheddar suppliers have offered reduced-fat variants for some time, with dairy Crest selling ‘lighter’ block, sliced and grated products under its Cathedral City brand, while Arla recently entered the branded lighter block cheese market with reduced-fat Anchor.

Wyke Farms has a ‘super light’ cheese, and Adams’ Pilgrims Choice range features two ‘lighter’ block cheeses. Jackson said the company was looking to launch a ‘lighter’ variant of its branded snacking portions.