In 2018 cheese was among the fastest-growing categories in both retail volume and current value terms thanks to rising demand for premium products. Sales were driven by improving purchasing power among consumers while cheese was increasingly purchased in larger volumes (not just sliced packaged cheese).
Larger pack sizes were in demand at the end of the review period in Slovakia, while purchasing unpackaged hard cheese from behind the counter was also popular, as consumers still sought a good bargain/deal. Over the forecast period, it is likely that cheesemongers (specialised cheese stores) will increase in number, due to the growing demand for high-quality products.
Cheese products from other milk types, such as from sheep or goat milk, shall gain in popularity over the forecast period. This is because Slovak consumers want to experience good-quality and healthier products.
Within cheese, lactose-free product labelling is anticipated to improve considerably over the forecast period. This is because some cheese varieties are naturally very low in lactose (even lactose-free), such as Parmesan.
Tatranska Mliekaren as, a major domestically owned dairy, is planning to increasingly focus on fresh cheese including brands low in lactose. The company is also investing in a new production facility for blue cheese (with mould), which according to the company will offer significant growth opportunities both domestically and for exports.
Hard cheese options are expected to perform well in the forecast period and their sales will be fuelled by their growing assortment – this will include private label versions, which are going to increasingly be used to tap into the high-end pricing segment; Tesco Finest and Kaufland Exquisite are already expanding their ranges. However, while category niches are expected to register the most dynamic growth, cheese products intended for the cheaper price segments are going to perform well, given they are able to compete in terms of taste.
In 2018, fresh milk continued gaining value share at the expense of shelf stable milk thanks to improving health-awareness and strengthening demand for fresh products in general.
Milk alternatives grew strongly in both 2017 and 2018 thanks to significant innovation and marketing support. Plant-based milk alternatives, such as Alpro Almond (by Emco Slovensko spol sro), were increasingly demanded whilst private label products strengthened their position.
Flavoured milk drinks posted modest sales growth in 2018, a rate noticeably behind the average within drinking milk products. Fortifying products with extra calcium or vitamins was increasingly popular, especially among products marketed for children; however, innovations were few and were not supported by any major marketing campaigns.
Price-competition remained significant in 2018 due to the rising cost of inputs, such as raw milk prices, which pushed unit prices upwards. As the trend is likely to continue in 2019, price discounts will remain highly important in temporarily increasingly brand sales.
In 2018 McCarter introduced Body & Future Protein Milk plant-based drinks, which have a significant juice content, Omega 3-acids and soy- and pea-based protein. In terms of marketing and product positioning, these products directly compete with drinking milk products (as the significant juice content means these products are tracked as soft drinks).
Private label manufacturers are increasingly offering organic products within milk alternatives, such as Kaufland’s Take it Veggie soy- and plant-based drinks, which are growing in popularity. Retailers are likely to expand their selection of milk alternatives over the forecast period, as they want to be a part of rapidly growing categories considering they can offer lower prices for similar-quality products.
Plant-based and soy-based yoghurts performed well in 2018, benefitting from stronger product availability and rising consumer-health-awareness. As practically all plant-based options are lactose-free and the number of lactose-intolerant consumers is rising, sales exceeded expectations.
Low-fat yoghurt did not perform well at the end of the review period, due to claims from nutritionists that higher-fat dairy products are more natural for a human body and that such products are considered to be of a higher quality. Low-fat yoghurt is still popular among consumers who closely track of their calorie intake; however, the trend currently favours thick, rich-in-fat yoghurt, such as Greek-style or skyr versions, and this development is very likely to continue in the forecast period.
Probiotic cultures remain highly important to Slovak consumers as these are often associated with immunity and digestive health, while product labels simply indicate the presence of beneficial bacteria rather than actual health claims (due to EU regulation). Products fortified with probiotics, calcium or vitamins are expected to further gain in popularity over the forecast period, thanks to growing health-awareness among Slovak consumers, with the primary traditional flavours (such as strawberry, chocolate and blueberry) likely to remain the most common.
Yoghurt products sourced domestically from local dairies dominated sales in 2018, with brands such as Rajo, Zvolensky, Tami and Sabi among the best-selling. In addition to this, private label products performed well, while imported products achieved modest gains, particularly those from brands sourced from the Czech Republic, such as Milko (by Polabske Mlekarny as).
In 2018, Hollandia Balance drinking yoghurt introduced an extension that is marketed as being a yoghurt smoothie that is free from artificial stabilising agents and fortified with probiotics. Its packaging has a special plastic cover, which allows the product to be consumed on the go.
Danone Oikos was introduced in the overall region in early 2018 and this launch was supported by an aggressive marketing campaign featuring television ads, online product support, in-store promotion and printed press ads. Other important innovations included skyr (thick yoghurt originating in Iceland), while Greek-style yoghurt remained a popular option.
Soy- and plant-based desserts, lactose-free cream and cottage cheese (for example Rajo) were gaining in popularity in 2018, thanks to a growing number of product options and a rising number of consumers suffering from at least a slight intolerance to lactose. Improving health-awareness is going to play an important role as consumers opt for healthier product varieties, such as lactose-free products, products containing probiotic cultures or natural products.
Other dairy faced strengthening competition from a growing foodservice industry in Slovakia at the end of the review period. Categories such as cream, condensed milk and curd were the most adversely affected as these are well established local cuisine.
Environmental consciousness is going to grow in importance and ultimately become a trend towards the end of the forecast period. With plastic packaging dominating other dairy in Slovakia, the use of partially biodegradable plastic and glass shall gain in popularity.
Future product innovation is expected to increasingly align with long-term sustainability and environmentally friendly projects. For example, in the neighbouring Czech Republic, the Krajanka brand has introduced an extension that supports animals in danger of extinction financially with each product purchased.
In 2018 locally sourced products in other dairy lost share to imported brands slightly, particularly due to the strengthening popularity of private label. However, with domestic products receiving more attention in the media the trend is expected to reverse over the forecast period.
Price promotions and discounts were highly important to other dairy in 2018; however, this did not fully offset unit price growth. This was due to both premiumisation and the rising prices of inputs such as raw milk.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our Packaged Food market research database.