Retail value sales of cheese slowed markedly in 2021, following the year-earlier growth spike due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), but remained at higher levels than prior to the pandemic. Although the pandemic has hit some consumers’ disposable incomes, cheese is still seen as a relatively affordable source of protein in many countries and will be recording positive growth rates over the forecast period.
Home seclusion and foodservice closures saw growth in sales of cheese spike in 2020, when the COVID-19 virus arrived in the region. Cheese was being increasingly used at home as a cooking ingredient or snack, helping to drive sales of this product across much of the region. With society learning to live with the virus and vaccination programmes rolling out, growth in retail sales of cheese slowed in 2021, albeit remaining well above pre-pandemic levels.
Soft cheese has been recording very strong growth in Brazil during the pandemic, favoured not only for its low prices but also for its versatility – for example soft cheese can be consumed with bread for breakfast and in snacks or used in the preparation of meals. Brands such as Sadia and Quatá were also able to retail at highly competitive on-shelf prices for mozzarella in key channels, helping to reinforce their appeal as cost-effective offerings.
Although it recorded strong growth during the pandemic, e-commerce still only has a very small presence in the retail distribution of cheese, accounting for less than 2% of regional sales in 2021. Independent small grocers and supermarkets/hypermarkets remain the biggest distribution channels, with store-based grocery retailers as a whole making up 96% of retail sales in 2021.
Packaged hard cheese will record the strongest growth over the forecast period in Mexico. Demand for packaged cheese will be driven by increasing appreciation of the convenience of this format, particularly among consumers with busy lifestyles as they return to their daily routines in terms of work or school. Players are likely to continue to introduce more convenient sliced or grated products such as squared slices to fit sandwich bread and rounded slices to fit tortillas.
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