Cheese is growing in popularity as a convenient option for snacking, in sandwiches, as an ingredient in cooking and as an accompaniment to wine. Tapping into this growing demand, domestic brands such as Karums have seen strong growth by introducing interesting flavour combinations, such as fresh cheese with red chilli pepper and fresh cheese with blue cheese.
Supermarkets/hypermarkets remain the leading distribution channel for cheese, with consumers appreciating the convenience offered by these stores. While markets will often focus more on domestic cheese supermarkets include a wider variety of options, including mozzarella, mascarpone, halloumi and brie.
Latvia has seen growing demand for vegetarian and vegan products driven by several factors including the health and wellness trend and growing awareness and concern over animal welfare. In line with this, leading grocery retailers Maxima and Rimi both launched ranges of vegan and vegetarian products in 2017, including vegan cheese.
Domestic importer and wholesaler Siera Nams A/S has retained its lead in cheese in 2018 despite seeing a further decline in its value share. The company offers the popular international brand Philadelphia among others, as well as domestic products such as its eponymous range of sliced cheese, which is very popular in Latvia.
Rigas Piensaimnieks SIA has seen one of the most dynamic growth rates in 2018, with its Karums range of fresh cheese seeing double-digit growth in current value terms. Karums benefits from a natural image with its products being free from preservatives and vegetable fat, which fits with the current trend towards clean labels and more natural ingredients.
Part financed by the EU, in 2017 the Latvian Dairy Committee commissioned the launch of Milk River under the Information and Promotion Measures for Agricultural Products support programme. The campaign’s goal is to promote Latvian dairy products in non-EU markets such as the US, China and the United Arab Emirates, with a focus on the quality, taste and diversity of the country’s dairy.
Drinking milk products has continued to see healthy growth in current value terms in Latvia, with dairy remaining an important part of the local diet. Despite this growth local dairy farmers approached Brussels due to concerns over a dramatic drop in the prices being paid for their yield.
Milk alternatives has been the most dynamic category in current value terms in 2018, albeit coming from a relatively low base. With growing awareness of lactose intolerance more consumers in Latvia are looking for milk alternatives such as soy drinks, almond milk and rice milk, among others.
In terms of cow’s milk, full fat fresh milk continues to dominate, with semi skimmed fresh milk also continuing to see good growth in 2018, with consumers perceiving these products to be more nutritious and natural. Meanwhile, fat-free fresh milk has continued to decline in current value terms with consumers viewing these products as less healthy and less natural than semi skimmed and full fat fresh milk.
Rimi Latvia SIA continues to see among the most dynamic current value growth in drinking milk products in Latvia, with its private label range providing good value for money. As well as being available through Rimi’s large chain of hypermarkets and supermarkets the retailer launched an online shop in 2017, which buys into the growing number of consumers who are going online for their groceries.
Alpro NV has seen the most dynamic growth within drinking milk products in 2018 with it continuing to benefit from the rising demand for milk alternatives. Nevertheless, despite seeing double-digit current value growth Alpro has continued to lose share within milk alternatives due to the rapid rise in the number of smaller niche players entering the market.
Rigas Piena Kombinats AS has also continued to see solid current value growth in 2018, with its Rasa Rasens brand continuing to gain share. For example, its Rasens range of flavoured milk drinks is popular with children while also attracting parents with these products being fortified with vitamins.
Due to growing awareness of the need for a healthy diet consumers are increasingly looking for healthier options, with this also being seen in yoghurt. While flavoured yoghurt products have struggled, with many containing high sugar levels, Greek yoghurt has received growing interest.
Sour milk products struggled over the review period and this trend has continued in 2018, with sales stagnating. Although sour milk is claimed to have several health benefits, including helping to lower cholesterol and being generally suitable for lactose intolerant consumers, the category has continued to decline as consumers shift to alternatives such as plain yoghurt and Greek yoghurt.
With Latvian consumers leading increasingly busy lifestyles there has been a growing trend towards on-the-go consumption, which has supported sales of yoghurt and sour milk products packaged in conveniently sized packaging. This has been reflected in the growth of drinking yoghurt with leading players introducing new products in conveniently-sized bottles.
Tukuma Piens AS has retained its lead in yoghurt and sour milk products in 2018 with it continuing to develop new products as well as employing strong marketing campaigns. For example, in addition to the aforementioned launches of drinking yoghurt and kefir the company also launched its Baltais cream yoghurt with no additives in September 2017.
Valio Oy has been the most dynamic player in the category in 2018, with its Gefilus and Alma brands both seeing strong current value growth thanks to their wide offer that meets with current trends. The company’s Valio Gefilus Kefir yoghurt has proven particularly popular, with it seeing double-digit growth in sour milk products.
Groupe Danone has seen the largest increase in value share in 2018, with its brands proving popular among health conscious consumers. The company offers the Actimel, Activia and Danacol brands with it highlighting the health benefits of consuming its products.
Health and wellness is one of the main trends impacting other dairy with large numbers of consumers shifting away from products that are high in sugar and fat. This is set to have a negative impact on products such as condensed milk and chilled and shelf stable dairy desserts, which are set to decline over the forecast period in value terms at constant 2018 prices.
In retail volume terms, fromage frais and quark is projected to remain one of the most dynamic areas of other dairy over the forecast period. Being naturally lower in fat and calories quark has proven attractive to health-conscious consumers looking for an alternative to yoghurt.
Although at a nascent stage, there is nevertheless a growing demand for vegan alternatives to dairy products and this is also being reflected in demand for other dairy. For example, white vegan soya sesame is being seen by some as a suitable alternative to products such as quark, although its use of palm oil has created concerns of its own, with discussions taking place over the impact of this ingredient on the environment.
Tukuma Piens has maintained its lead in other dairy in 2018. After a difficult year in 2017 the company has returned to growth despite a further slight decline in its value share.
One of the most interesting launches is a new Karums product in fromage frais and quark which has packaging that celebrates the 100th anniversary of Latvia in 2018. The new product comes in a vanilla flavour with the packaging carrying the messages ‘Es esmu Latvija’ (I Am Latvia) and ‘Mes milam Latviju!’ (We Love Latvia!).
Leading retailer Rimi has seen a further increase in its value share in 2018 with it seeing particularly strong growth in condensed milk, in which it only launched its private label range in 2015. The retailer has been expanding its business, including launching an online shop in 2017, which has in turn helped to drive sales of its private label products.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our Packaged Food market research database.