Despite a spate of launches in 2007, Euromonitor found that fortified and functional cheeses accounted for less than one per cent of the $100bn global cheese market, with probiotic versions faring very poorly.
“Sadly, consumer response to these exciting launches has been lukewarm at best, and none have yet achieved mass-market success,” said Euromonitor analyst Ewa Hudson. “The main reason for probiotic cheese's failure to take off is that, unlike yoghurt, it is not really regarded as a healthy food.”
She added: “It will never match the success of probiotic yoghurt, which is rapidly becoming somewhat of a new industry standard.”
In comparison, spoonable and drinkable yogurts had grown to global sales of $16bn or 32 per cent of the world pro- and prebiotic market in yogurt products.
“Although high in calcium and protein, health-conscious consumers know that the fat content of cheese is nearly on a par with that of chocolate, and that it is full of unhealthy saturated fat to boot,” Hudson continued.
“On top of that, cheese contains a lot of salt, a known contributory factor to high blood pressure. In short, cheese is the devil's food for those watching their waistlines and/or their cardiovascular health. For avid cheese eaters unconcerned with such pesky issues, probiotic variants hold no attraction, and certainly do not warrant paying a premium for.”
She highlighted another problem with fortifying cheese was the national baggage that often came attached to it, especially in the case of traditional cheese-making nations like France, Italy and Switzerland.
In these countries rustic manufacturing practices are still often in high regard and so variants such as fortification with probiotics meet with greater resistance.
“Consumers who know their cheese do not want functionality and consider any added ingredient, even probiotics which do not impair the flavor in any way, as a type of adulteration,” Hudson observed.
“On the whole, it seems that adding probiotics to standard cheese offerings or to premium gourmet ranges is not a good idea, because it misses the key target group of health and wellness consumers and, at the same time, alienates average and premium cheese buyers.”
In contrast, reduced fat cheese was performing well. Global sales nearly doubled between 2002 and 2007, reaching $9 billion. By 2012 the figure will be $11.5 billion.