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WMMB: Consumers Love Their Wisconsin Cheese
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 01/10/2014

Not only is U.S. cheese production at an all-time high, but consumption of the dairy product has also never been greater. According to new data provided by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, total cheese output in the country has more than doubled over the past 25 years, totalling 10.89 billion pounds in 2012. And Wisconsin set the pace with 2.79 billion pounds produced that year--which means about a quarter of all the cheese made in the U.S.A. comes from the state.

Marilyn Wilkinson of the WMMB check-off says the steady growth in the cheese market is due in part to the popularity of specialty cheeses.

"Reported growth rates in traditional grocery stores put Gouda volume sales at an 11.2 percent increase, while Fresh Mozzarella is up 9.3 percent," Wilkinson said. "Wisconsin was in the leadership position here, too, at a record high 2012 production of 611.2 million pounds of specialty cheese, a product defined as value-added, high in quality and priced at a premium."

Feta and Hispanic-style cheeses are among the most popular, and Gouda, specialty Cheddar, Hispanic-style cheeses, specialty Colby and Asiago are fast growing segments of Wisconsin's production, she noted.

American cheese consumption over the past 25 years has increased 39 percent, from 24.1 pounds to 33.5 pounds per capita, according to USDA figures.

"These mega trends are firmly in place and likely to continue, fostered by a number of more segmented cheese-focused trends and influences," added Wilkinson.

And cheese has a number of current health benefits, too. It is a source of healthy protein, something that restaurant menu consultants says consumers can't get get enough of.

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