MADISON, Wis. -
The holidays mean big business for Wisconsin’s dairy industry with cheese sales peaking in the weeks leading up to both Thanksgiving and Christmas. According to 2013 data collected by Information Resources, Inc.'s (IRI) custom database for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
, cheese sales jumped 20 percent in the week before Thanksgiving and 35 percent in the week before Christmas.
Sales were up 50 percent or more for some cheese varieties, including brick, butterkäse, camembert, cream cheese, fontina, gorgonzola, mascarpone and ricotta. Variety packs made up of slices, cubes or wedges of various cheese also sell particularly well during the holidays.
This year’s outlook is even better as consumer confidence hit a high in Q3 2014. IRI reports that 8 percent of consumers say they will be spending more on holiday celebrations this year as compared to 6 percent in both 2013 and 2012. Fewer consumers expect to tighten their holiday budgets, as well, with 36 percent of shoppers planning to spend less in 2014 compared to 43 percent in 2013 and 45 percent in 2012. These small percent changes can make a big difference in revenues.
Cheese companies are paying close attention to these trends, tailoring marketing efforts and product introductions to holiday sales. Limited edition cheeses, for instance, can create excitement and demand. In recent years, Hook’s Cheese began releasing its 15-year cheddar in small batches each November. The cheese is now eagerly anticipated and sells in the $70/lb. range at retail. Sartori’s cinnamon-spiked Cannella BellaVitano has also made a return for the 2014 holiday season after a successful debut in 2013.
Other Wisconsin specialty cheese products featuring seasonal flavors include Henning’s Cinnamon Apple Pie Heritage Cheddar, Carr Valley Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar, Maple Leaf Cherry White Cheddar and Kelly’s Kitchen Pumpkin Spice Gourmet Dessert Cheese Spread.
Cheese retailers have also stepped up their holiday promotions this year with expanded gift basket selections and enhanced online ordering. Fromagination
, an artisan cheese shop in Madison, Wisconsin, recently launched a new online store with a wide selection of cheese gift baskets and a Cheese of the Month subscription. Door County’s Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese
has created a “County Collection” of gift boxes designed to highlight Wisconsin counties where artisan cheese is made. These include the Langlade County Collection featuring Sartori MontAmore and the Clark County Collection with Marieke Gouda.
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has compiled a list of cheese companies, creameries and specialty stores offering mail order cheese and gift baskets: www.EatWisconsinCheese.com/MailOrder
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, (608) 203-7235. For more information about Wisconsin Cheese, visit EatWisconsinCheese.com