Supermarket shoppers buying branded cheese

Strings & Things is the only top 10 cheese brand to have grown volumes as well as value

Strings & Things is the clear winner in cheese this year. The kids’ snacking brand is the only top 10 name to have grown volumes as well as value.

It’s up £9.5m after shifting 39,000 extra kilos – roughly the equivalent of 487.5 million four-packs from its Cheestrings range.

The brand is “significantly outperforming other kids’ cheese snacks in the market”, says Liz McTurk, brand manager at owner Kerry Dairy Consumer Foods. “What makes Cheestrings so appealing is that kids love the playability of the product, while parents know it’s a nutritious snack.”

The relaunch of Dairylea Lunchables

Rival suppliers have been working to ape its fortunes in cheese snacking. Mondelez, for instance, relaunched Dairylea Lunchables this summer as Lunchers, with lower levels of salt and satfat (this explains the decline for the former in our table). Unveiled in July, in time for the new school term, the revamped lineup made £7.2m in its first two months.

“In these more challenging times, shoppers are looking to buy from the brands they know and trust – with 67% of people saying they would rather buy fewer amounts of their favourite snack brand than buy the less expensive generic alternative,” says Susan Nash, trade comms manager at Mondelez.

Bel UK has been looking to tap that brand loyalty. In August, it launched a £1m push for Babybel urging shoppers to ‘Join the Goodness’. “We continue to successfully capture the imagination of consumers with best-in-class marketing and substantial new equity campaigns,” says Ollie Richmond, senior brand manager for snacks & spreads.

Timed for the back-to-school period and backed by limited-edition packaging depicting Snack Heroes characters, Babybel’s activity was clearly aimed at kids.

Pilgrims Choice, on the other hand, had grown-ups in its sights in September with the  rollout of Snack Sticks. Sold in a net of six, the individually wrapped 20g sticks of extra mature cheddar “meet the unmet needs of adults who feel the current offering is lacking taste” in snacking, says owner Ornua Foods.

Mini mature cheddar cheese

That may be a sly dig at Mini Mature Cheddars, added in 2021 by Cathedral City – which has kept its place in cheese’s top spot with a £15.7m gain. “Quality and taste have always been Cathedral City’s strengths and we believe it is what keeps consumers coming back,” says Neil Stewart, head of marketing for cheese at owner Saputo Dairy UK.

Certainly, Cathedral City’s volume decline has slowed significantly since last year. But, like its rivals, it’s facing the growing threat of cheaper own label lines.

Value deals will therefore be a key bulwark in the year ahead, says NIQ analyst Tom Oakton. “Promotions will continue to play a key role in the success of brands.”

Top Launch 2023

Cathedral City Our Red Leicester | Saputo

Cathedral City Red Leicester

The UK’s biggest cheese brand took a bold step away from its cheddar heartland in September with the launch of its first-ever red leicester block (rsp: £4.75/300g). Rolling  into Sainsbury’s as part of Cathedral City’s nascent Our Best of British range, it was described as a “momentous occasion” by Neil Stewart, head of marketing at owner Saputo Dairy UK. At the same time, Cathedral City added Our Naturally Smoked Cheddar – another first for the brand.

Face off: Top Products Survey 2023 pits brands vs own-label