Cheese brands put in some powerful performances this year, while top brand Cathedral City remained in sound growth

Cathedral City’s growth has slowed, with sales increasing by 8.2% to £195m compared with last year’s 26.3%. Yet it remains the market leader by some distance, opening up a gap of more than £95m in sales from its nearest rival Dairylea. And it’s not much short of four times the size of the second-largest Cheddar, Seriously.

However, the category’s star performer is Wyke Farms. A 64.9% increase in sales from £29.6m last year to £48.7m this year enabled it to climb from 8th to 7th place. Wyke is now hot on the heels of Pilgrims Choice, with only £3.8m in sales value separating them, compared with last year’s £16.6m gap.

“Hopefully this time next year, we’ll be in the top five cheese brands and if we can maintain this growth then there’s no reason why we can’t do that,” says Wyke Farms’ ambitious managing director Richard Clothier.

His aspirations for the brand do not seem entirely far-fetched, as buyers are clearly impressed by Wyke Farms’ business sense. It has a flexible approach to retailers’ requests and began advertising on television for the first time in 2009,” says Mark Cloudy, category buyer for cheese at The Co-operative. “Wyke understands where its product sits in the branded market, has a realistic vision for the brand and a great understanding of our business.”

Despite losing further ground to Cathedral City, Seriously bumped Cheestrings from 4th to 5th place with its 7% growth, which Cloudy attributes to shoppers downtrading and going back to basics.

“While the Cheestrings brand has done a great job communicating that it is 100% cheese, consumers still see it as expensive. They can use pieces of real cheese cut from blocks at a fraction of the cost.”

One to watch is Ilchester, which looks to have benefited since it was bought out by Norwegian dairy giant Tine BA in November last year. Now part of Tine’s Norseland subsidiary, the past year has seen Ilchester grow by 207.9% to £11.7m, albeit from a base of £3.8m.

Cheddars aside, Dairylea has suffered a sales dip of 3.4%, which Cloudy claims is down to increased competition from The Laughing Cow (which has grown 10.6%, in contrast), and demand for own-label cheese spreads.

Top launch: Cheestrings Shots, Kerry Foods

They will never be the first choice of connoisseurs of fine cheese, but Kerry Foods’ brand extension into Cheestrings Shots is an interesting new development in the lucrative children’s cheese category. Launched in July, it offers pieces of natural cheese in a tiny sweet-like format that can be conveniently thrown down the hatch – and all over nearby siblings/classmates/the floor if we know kids.

Top Products Survey 2009