October 9, 2015
India's growing taste for cheese
A growing taste for cheese by the younger generation of Indians and expanding middle-class consumers in the cities are helping drive a 15% annual growth in cheese production in India, a report by the US Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Services (USDA-FAS) said.
The report said, "Cheese demand is driven by India's young demography and growing urban middle class. According to contacts, these consumers are more experimental, and willing to try new foods due to increased international exposure through travel and quick service restaurants".
The report said 60% of total cheese sales was accounted for by urban demand.
Processed cheese also takes up 80% of the total cheese market, the report added.
The report also noted that more middle- to upper-class Indian consumers were buying different styles of imported and domestic cheese, such as cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Emmenthal, Gouda, Ricotta, feta, and Mascarpone.
"These cheese styles can only be found in modern retailers and gourmet grocery stores. In a very niche market segment, a few of these cheeses, such as cheddar, are eaten on a daily basis in sandwiches and other convenient snack foods, while other styles are consumed only on special occasions" the report said.
Only 40-45 cheese varieties
The report said that despite growing cheese demand, only 40 to 45 varieties of cheese are available in the Indian market. In contrast, the US produces over 300 varieties.
While imported cheeses represent just a fraction of the total Indian market, the demand for them remains strong as organised retailers, high-end hotels and restaurants feature these products to aspirational consumers, the USDA-FAS report stated.
The USDA-FA also cited Euromonitor estimates putting retail cheese sales last year at $244 million and 47,600 tonnes in terms of volume. Restaurant and hotel cheese purchases last year were even higher at an estimated 51,800 tonnes.
Over the past several years, cheese retail sales in terms of volume have increased by about 13.5% per year, the report said.
"Industry contacts believe that total cheese production has been growing at least 15% per year", the report added.
The USDA-FA cited sources indicating India's organised and unorganised milk and dairy market size is valued at around $70 billion, with fluid milk constituting the largest portion. --Rick Alberto