Cheese continued to record low retail volume growth in 2019, due to stagnation recorded by the largest category of hard cheese. This type of cheese was traditionally consumed with bread as a breakfast option or in sandwiches for lunch.
The Dutch are becoming increasingly interested in the origins of what they consume, which is leading to rising demand for cheese with Protected Designation of Origin, resulting in the increasing popularity of goat cheese and imported types such as mozzarella, parmesan and ricotta, with the latter supporting the ongoing positive performance of soft cheese. Italian cuisine is fairly popular in the Netherlands with consumers increasingly cooking with products from this country.
The rising popularity of cheese as a snack was driven by demand for processed cheese brands such as Babybel and La Vache Qui Rit due to offering individually wrapped portions; both are distributed by Beldis Nederland for Groupe Bel. The launch of La Vache Qui Rit Cheez Dippers and Babybel mini pack of 16 cheeses both target families with children, as these products are a suitable source of protein and fit well into packed lunches for school.
Branded cheese producers continued to experience increasing pressure from private label offered by popular retailers with the first three positions held by AH from Albert Heijn, Jumbo and Superunie from CIV Superunie. Collectively, private label continued to gain value share from highly-ranked companies such as Royal FrieslandCampina (Milner) and Westland Kaasexport BV (Old Amsterdam) in 2019, although fourth-ranked Beemster from CONO Kaasmakers continued to slowly gain share and record positive value growth.
Heksenkaas BV strengthened its leadership of spreadable processed cheese in 2019 offering leading brand Heks'nkaas. What distinguishes this brand from competitors such as Philadelphia and Campina Slankie, is that it is often used as a dip that is served with aperitifs rather than a cheese to be spread on bread, therefore benefiting from differentiation.
Soft cheese brand Boursin launched a new variant of its traditional flavoured cream cheese. This was positioned as softer and creamer in texture offering a variation of consumption as it can be used as a spread or as a dip, with the latter becoming increasingly popular amongst the Dutch, who continue to search for new interesting ways to consume cheese, with a further move away from cheese on bread.
Drinking milk products continued to record declining retail volume sales in 2019, driven by the performance of the largest category of cow’s milk. This is a common trend in many Western countries as an increasing number of consumers refrain from drinking milk due to concerns over animal welfare, increasing awareness of lactose and growing intolerance of this amongst the Dutch, or lifestyle choices such as veganism.
While retail volume sales continued to decline for fat-free and semi skimmed fresh milk within cow’s milk, full fat fresh milk continued to experience stable growth in 2019, supported by its natural perception and the use of this type in preparing cappuccino and lattes in the home. While Dutch consumers are increasingly restricting their intake of cow’s milk, they make an exception for small indulgences such as milky coffee, with full fat offering a superior texture and flavour to reduced fat versions.
The trend for veganism and following plant-based diets in the Netherlands is continuing to grow, leading to strong retail volume growth for other milk alternatives such as oat or almond milk. However, this category remains a niche, with products such as this mainly being consumed by health-conscious women.
Royal FrieslandCampina NV retained its leadership of drinking milk products in 2019 due to its broad product portfolio with its Campina brand continuing to convincingly lead cow’s milk. However, the company’s share continued to come under pressure from increasing competition from smaller local brands such as Mijn Melk offered by retailers such as Albert Heijn, and the declining demand for traditional dairy products such as cow’s milk.
Although dairy only flavoured milk drinks continued to decline in popularity towards the end of the review period, Royal FrieslandCampina’s domination of this category resulted in its ongoing efforts to inject some dynamism and interest back into it by launching Chocomel 0% added sugar. Chocomel is a chocolate flavoured milk drink that has been present in the Netherlands for decades.
Alpro Soja Nederland BV retained its leadership of milk alternatives, dominating soy drinks due to first mover advantage and a presence of more than 30 years in the Netherlands. The company continues to benefit from innovation, launching Barista Soy Drink towards the end of the review period, with this targeting coffee enthusiasts and offering easy-foaming and a milky texture.
Yoghurt and sour milk products continued to enjoy stable demand supported by the stronger retail volume growth of plain yoghurt and sour milk products. Dutch consumers are searching for more natural and healthier unprocessed options within packaged food, and plain dairy offers them a protein-rich product without artificial flavourings or additives, that can be used for a variety of dishes.
With ongoing demand for more natural products, Dutch consumers are increasingly looking for yoghurt that offers them some point of differentiation. Yoghurt from various countries of origin or styles appeal to consumers who appreciate provenance and localisation with Greek yoghurt, Turkish yoghurt, Dutch strained yoghurt (hangop) and Icelandic skyr all gaining in popularity.
Demand for sour milk products continued to gain momentum in 2019, supported by the trend for kefir, a cultured fermented drink traditionally made from cow’s or goat milk, which is perceived to be high in nutrients and probiotics, which are beneficial for digestion and gut health. This is a fairly new product for the Netherlands, with local consumers more used to purchasing traditional Dutch sour milk products called karnemelk, which are naturally high in protein and low in sugar and usually sold plain, with consumers increasingly favouring plain dairy over flavoured.
Royal FrieslandCampina retained its leadership of overall yoghurt and sour milk products in 2019, offering a wide product portfolio across the category. However, the player continued to lose value share to competitors Arla Foods and Albert Heijn, and recording flat value sales.
Second-ranked Arla Foods BV continued to gain ground on leader Royal FrieslandCampina, with the player introducing organic kefir to the Netherlands in 2018. This new product is offered in three flavours of plain, blueberry and ginger/lemon, although in line with the natural trend at the end of the review period, the plain variety has been the most popular, and is offered in a 1-litre carton, which along with Albert Heijn, is the only brand of kefir to offer this larger packaging, making it suitable for family consumption.
Muller Nederland experienced ongoing strong value growth in 2019. Although its brand Almhof continued to lead flavoured yoghurt, it performed better in current value growth terms in plain yoghurt in line with the growing trend for this type.
Other dairy continued to record declining demand in 2019, driven by the negative performance of the largest category, chilled and shelf stable desserts. With the increasing health and wellness trend in the Netherlands, many consumers continued to shy away from dairy products that are perceived to be high in sugar, fat and additives.
Fromage frais and quark continued to record the strongest performance within other dairy in 2019, supported by demand for both flavoured and plain varieties, although the latter recorded high current value and retail volume growth, echoing a similar trend within yoghurt. Quark is naturally low in fat and high in protein and is increasingly competing with yoghurt for consumers’ attention, benefiting from the health trend, with players targeting health-conscious consumers, particularly athletes who search for products which help them to gain strength while staying lean and fit, while helping them to build and maintain muscle.
Other dairy has come under increasing pressure from products from other packaged food categories, with growing interest in chilled vegan dairy products within yoghurt, based not only soy but also rice milk or almond or hazelnuts, as alternative healthy options to consumers who are either lactose-intolerant or who are generally trying to move towards a plant-based diet but still want to treat themselves. Competition for indulgence also comes in the form of ice cream, with premium brands such as Ben & Jerry’s offering vegan variants of their ice cream across a number of grocery retailers in the Netherlands, including Peanut Butter & Cookies Non-Dairy ice cream.
Royal FrieslandCampina retained its lead of other dairy in 2019 with a strong presence across the category, although it continued to lose ground, particularly within the declining category of chilled dairy desserts. It has therefore continued to focus more on the development of its quark range, introducing a lower calorie variety mid-review period.
Danone Nederland BV managed to maintain a stable performance within overall other dairy in 2019, although it lost some value share within the increasingly competitive category of fromage and frais and quark, particularly the plain segment. In the latter, the player offers leading brand Hüttenkäse, in addition to Danone Hüttenkwark.
Alpro Soja Nederland BV entered other dairy in 2018 through fromage frais and quark and recorded impressive current value growth in 2019 after its first full year of sales, benefiting from press coverage and winning several awards. The company’s Alpro Go On offers Dutch consumers a novel concept; plant-based quark.
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This industry report originates from Passport, our Packaged Food market research database.