Snacking cheeses are a rapidly expanding category for Poway, Calif.-based retailer Barons Market, said Rachel Shemirani, senior vice president.
For many years, “snacking cheeses” meant string cheese, cheese sticks and other products targeted at kids, Shemirani said. Cheese sticks, in particular, are still a huge seller for the retailer. Recently, though, the category has undergone a change that makes room for more “adult” fare.
Sure, cheddar and colby jack are still reliable snacking cheese sales. But Barons is also seeing a surge in demand for varieties like fontina, parmesan, wine-soaked artigiano and balsamic onion-flavored. It’s not just the taste, she said — shoppers also are attracted to the wide variety of colors a wider variety of snacking cheeses offers.
“We’re excited about it, and our customers are loving it,” Shemirani said. “Grab-and-go has just taken off and no signs of slowing down.”
Among the upcoming additions to the category for Barons are El Pastor Tapas Platter tapas-style snacking cheeses.
One of the classic snacking cheeses, Babybel, come wrapped in red hard wax. But the snacking cheeses Barons sells in its specialty cheese sections are wrapped in plastic so customers can see what they’re getting, Shemirani said. Snacking cheeses, which can come in packages as small as 1 ounces, sometimes come in octagonal and other shapes for additional differentiation.
Barons carries snacking cheeses from brands including BelGioioso, Tillamook, Brie Supreme, Andrew & Everett and Organic Valley.
There are at least three big reasons for the evolution of the snacking cheese category — and for its huge popularity — Shemirani said. The explosion in demand for everything charcuterie is one.
“People mix and match, buy a bunch of different cheeses. Everybody loves charcuterie boards, and I think they’ve introduced people to other cheeses.”
Even products that may not fall into the snacking category because of their size, like packs of pre-sliced cheeses that are tailor-made for charcuterie boards, are big sellers, Shemirani said.
“That’s a surprise to me, because it’s a much larger pack with a higher price point.”
A second reason for snacking cheeses’ surging popularity has been the keto trend, Shemirani said.
“Customers had a big need for non-carb snacks that were also filling, and snacking cheeses fit so well into that.”
The keto trend is waning, but that doesn’t mean there’s been a corresponding decline in demand for snacking cheeses, Shemirani said. People who discovered new products while on keto are still buying them, even though they may no longer be on the diet.
The third reason is driven by the ever-growing number of snack-loving millennial and Gen Z consumers for whom three square meals is a day is hopelessly outdated.
“They take a little more risks, and in snacks they’re always looking for new items,” Shemirani said. “Snacking cheeses are a way for them to try something new and trendy.”