One of the benefits of co-merchandising cheese at retail with other foods is it opens consumers' minds to new possibilities they may not have otherwise thought of.

“Maybe it’s a cracker or a biscuit, or jam or another item, and a lot of people will say, ‘I never considered putting these three things together,’ and they’ll buy all three. That’s the attraction,” said Keith Adams, co-founder of William Cofield Cheesemakers.

Variety of flavor and texture are among the things shoppers like most of cross-merchandising, Adams said, and cheese is a natural fit for both.

Crackers and jam are among the most common items Cofield’s retail partners have merchandised the company’s cheeses with, but the sky is the limit, Adams said.

“Every once in a while you might see blue cheese paired with chocolate, which sounds really strange, but they can work really well together. Sometimes it’s nuts, or fresh fruit, if you have a really nice batch of apples or pears.”

Cofield’s flagship cheddar, McKinley, goes great with a jam made of figs, ginger and orange, the product of a Sebastopol, Calif., artisan with ties to Cofield.

Adams’ other cheese company, Alemar, makes a camembert that pairs exceptionally well with baguettes, jams and other items, and the company’s retail partners have taken full advantage of that fact.

Kombucha and ginger beer are among the beverage possibilities, he said.

One-stop shopping

Other cheesemakers share Adams’ enthusiasm for the power of cross-merchandising.

“Cross-merchandising is a huge key to success in marketing our products,” said Elle (Fearing) Williams, director of sales and brand development for Carr Valley Cheese. “Consumers want ease when it comes to dining and entertaining, so offering a one-stop-shop, in a sense, helps facilitate that experience.”

With so much information consumed in 15-second bites, it’s crucial to make sure your pairings of cheese with other items is “fast and simple,” she added.

One of Carr Valley’s most successful cross-merchandising successes was with its famous Bread Cheese.

“We had the Bread Cheese placed in the cooler alongside ready-to-grill skewers and small George Foreman grills,” Williams said. “It visually gives consumers one way to enjoy the product, and with a corresponding deal, it’s a no brainer.”

Carr Valley has also implemented smaller cross-promotions during demos in-store. These have included crackers with its cheese spreads, hot honey with its Penta Crème Blue and fruit preserves with its Bread Cheese.

The key to working with retailers on successful cross-merchandising programs, Williams said, is flexibility.

“We work with retailers one-on-one to create a unique marketing plan to fit their customers. We’re flexible and happy to work on new ideas to make sure it’s successful, and with our extensive product line, there are endless opportunities for cross-merchandising.”

Cross-merchandising is definitely on the rise, Williams said. Carr Valley sees brands working together more and more, and it creates a new avenue to increase sales.

Move it up

For customers who are shopping for a single meal, the dairy case is often too far to go. Front-end merchandisers can solve this problem by moving cheese to the front of the store via secondary placement displays and pairing it with other fresh items

Secondary placement leads to a higher spend per customer and ultimately improves retail performance, according to the American Dairy Association Northeast, whose placement successes have included cheese in the meat department (cheeseburgers), cheese with produce (brie and berries) and shredded cheese with salads.

Cross merchandising with front-end coolers and secondary placements has led to a 7% lift in sales for the association’s retail partners.

Wheel of (merchandising) fortune

Carlson AirFlo’s Cheese Wheel display is custom-made for cross-merchandising in retail fresh departments. The display offers standout options for cross merchandising or accent merchandising of cross departmental products, according to the company.

Retailers can display cheese pairings with fruit and vegetables for dinner ideas, increasing sales in both categories and developing relationships with customers as expert suggestions.

Features of the unit include:

  • Specifically designed to integrate seamlessly into eurotables, produce tables and base merchandising options.
  • Durable powder coated steel construction.
  • Adjustable wing nuts at two point locations for greater flexibility, making shelf adjustable to be flat or angled.
  • Top surface features half inch edge height to keep product in place.

This article is an excerpt from the June 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Cheese Cross-merchandising feature and more in the digital edition here.