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Long Demonized For Its Fat And Salt Content, Cheese Re-Emerges As Health Food: Report

With The Right Marketing Strategy, Including Positive Health Messages, Companies Can Create Surge in Demand For Cheese

After 40 years of being demonized for its fat and salt content, cheese stands at the threshold of a turnaround that will see it re-established as a natural and healthy whole food, like many other foods before it, from nuts to eggs, according to New Nutrition Business, which profiles the cheese opportunity in its June 2015 report.

“People in the dairy industry have a once-in-a-career opportunity to take a dairy food that’s been out of favor for decades and reposition it, with new snack formats and positive health messages.”
—Julian Mellentin, New Nutrition Business

Cheese has long been hampered by concerns about saturated fat content, sodium levels and weight gain, the report noted.

Now, those negative perceptions look set to change as research reveals that:
—The sodium in cheese does not increase blood pressure because of the “whole food matrix” in which it is delivered.
—Cheese does not lead to weight gain and in fact may have the opposite effect. As a 2011 Norwegian study concludes: “Since saturated fat is a major cheese component, it might be questioned whether subjects with a frequent use of cheese would put on more weight than low consumers of cheese. Our consistent finding in all age groups of both men and women, except in the 75-year-old subjects, of a negative correlation between cheese intake and BMI is not in favor of the idea that frequent cheese intake leads to increased body weight. In fact, the opposite might be suggested from the present results.”

“With new science reaching a tipping point, cheese could be the next naturally functional success story,” predicted Julian Mellentin, director of New Nutrition Business.

“People in the dairy industry have a once-in-a-career opportunity to take a dairy food that’s been out of favor for decades and reposition it, with new snack formats and positive health messages,” Mellentin added.
“With the right marketing strategy dairy companies can create a massive surge in demand for cheese.”

There is huge potential for growth in cheese consumption in many countries, the New Nutrition Business report noted.

Per capita cheese consumption in the US, for example, is more than 20 pounds lower than in France, a country with one of the lowest rates of heart disease in the world.

With the negatives of sodium, saturated fat and weight gain removed, other benefits of cheese will become clearer to consumers, the report said:
—Dental health benefits: Research conducted over a number of years has found that cheese may help prevent cavities.

For example, according to a study published in the May/June 2013 issue of General Dentistry, the clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry, cheese has the highest anticariogenetic property among three dairy products studies (milk and yogurt were the others).

—Low in lactose: Most cheese products contain little or no lactose.

—Good nutrition profile. Cheese is high in protein and calcium, and also is a good source of many other vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B12 and riboflavin
—Taste and variety. Like dark chocolate or red wine, cheese is a better-for-you food that tastes good.

The evolution of science gives every reason to believe that cheese could be the next big food turnaround, just as nuts, once demonized for their fat content, turned out to contain beneficial fats and have gone on to become a snacking success story, the report said.

How quickly that happens depends on how effectively industry introduces consumers to the new science, how quickly it re-educates health professionals who cling to old ideas about cheese, and how willing companies are to be innovative and create new and convenient products that revitalize consumer interest in cheese.

“The real challenge for cheese is not a lack of science demonstrating its benefits,” Mellentin of the New Nutrition Business continued. “The challenge is whether the industry has the courage to step up and present the new science to health professionals and to consumers, and, like the nut industry, to press forward with innovative new formats for cheese.”