Unmeltable halloumi cheese could go places in the US if it can overcome hurdles

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Unmeltable halloumi cheese could go places in the US if it can overcome hurdles
Wildly popular in the UK and Europe, the salty and slightly rubbery grilling cheese halloumi is beginning to gain attention in the US as consumer fears about fat fade and their desire for high-protein snacks increases, according to new research from Fact.MR.

“The US accounts for less than 10% of the global halloumi cheese demand,”​ but demand in the US is growing at 6.4% per year, with an expected uptick towards 7.1% growth between 2018 and 2028, Fact.MR analyst Santosh Kumar told FoodNavigator-USA.

“A large part of the halloumi cheese demand in the US is due to the European tourist arrivals who know about halloumi cheese and prefer them in several cuisines,”​ Kumar explained, noting that many of the same reasons that Europeans like halloumi likely will be shared by Americans.

“The reason halloumi cheese sells like hot cakes all across Europe is because it’s so moreish,”​ but also healthier than some other alternatives, such as cheddar cheese, Kumar said.

“A question even avid consumers ask is, ‘It tastes so good, but can it, in some way, be healthy?’ And, the answers are encouraging,”​ Kumar explained. “Halloumi is an excellent source of calcium and protein, and moderate intake can be advantageous.”

However, Kumar also noted, the cheese is high in saturated fats and sodium, so too much can aggravate certain health conditions.

Overcoming challenges in the US and abroad

To seize the cheese’s full potential in the US, where sales of specialty cheeses are significantly high, manufacturers and producers must overcome significant hurdles, according to Fact.MR.

Chief among them is the cheese’s high price, which is currently kept up due to reliance on imports, Kumar noted.

“Domestic production of halloumi cheese is significantly low in the US, hence imports from Europe, Middle-East and Asia-Pacific largely meets the demand. This stands as one of the key factors for the low share in North America in the halloumi cheese market. Owing to the import oriented consumption, the price of halloumi cheese is significantly high in the US as compared to other countries,”​ Kumar said. “It would be uncertain to comment on whether this restrain will continue impacting the halloumi demand in the US, as in the near to mid-term the prospects of domestic halloumi cheese production in the US seems to be low.”

However, Kumar added, there is significant potential for the cheese in the US, and producers and manufacturers interested in tapping into this unmet demand should focus on increasing the goat and sheep milk supplies in the US, so domestic production can increase.

“The domestic producers also should focus on the advertisement under customer education campaigns, as large numbers of specialty cheese consumers are unaware about this variant of cheese,”​ Kumar said.

European producers and marketers are grappling with other challenges that could extend to the US once the cheese gains more traction.

Specifically, abroad the demand for the cheese is so high that classic supply and demand challenge are arising, which is leading to problems with adulteration.

To address this, producers are exploring efforts to boost production through genomic schemes.

Kumar explained: “A recent European Union project targets the production of goat and sheep milk in Cyprus. The project intends to genetically develop the local goat and sheep breeds with the help of genetics and genomics. The project also intends to enhance the supply of animal feed to grow the production of organic milk. The project participants include institutes and companies from Cyprus, UK, France and Germany.”

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