Premium potential: Singapore identified as top ASEAN market for high quality cheese

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Industry experts from the United States say Singapore is the top market for premium cheese in South East Asia. ©Getty Images
Industry experts from the United States say Singapore is the top market for premium cheese in South East Asia. ©Getty Images

Related tags Singapore Cheese Asean

Industry experts from the United States say Singapore is the top market for premium cheese in South East Asia, bucking the regional trend for processed products.

According to data from the US Cheese Guild, 2022 retail sales of cheese in Singapore for 2022 were valued at US$ 69.4mn – and more importantly, a good portion of this was for premium variants.

“The share of soft, hard and spreadable cheese [sales in Singapore] came in at 39%,”​ US Cheese Guild spokeswoman, USDEC Regional Director for South East Asia Dalilah Ghazalay, told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“[This] is considerably higher than other countries in the region which skew heavily to processed cheeses.

“We noticed a gap in the market here for such high-quality cheeses; [and this] insight strongly influenced our decision to establish a presence in Singapore and cater to the evolving tastes of consumers who appreciate fine cheeses.

“While cheeses from the USA may not be as famous as cheeses from Italy, France or Switzerland, the countless awards from international judges prove that USA cheese can compete on a global stage.”

There have been many award-winning cheeses emerging from the United States over the past few years, such as the Beehive Cheese Company’s Seahive and Teahive Cheddars and the Sartori Company’s Espresso BellaVitano and Old World Cheddar which had all secured awards at the International Cheese and Dairy Awards in the past three years – but there still remains a lower quality perception of American cheeses in the Asian market, which the guild hopes to correct.

“We do acknowledge the existing perception of USA cheese and aim to redefine it by showcasing the breadth and depth of our award-winning cheeses [such as] the award-winning BellaVitano ranges by Sartori Cheese Company which are now widely available in supermarkets across Singapore,”​ she added.

“We are targeting discerning consumers through retail channels, leveraging the fact that Singaporeans are renowned for being well-travelled and having a sophisticated palate as a foodie nation.

“Additionally, recognizing that the foodservice industry in Singapore not only serves locals but also a significant number of tourists, we aim to tap into an even more diverse audience.

“[The aim is] to dispel stereotypes by engaging with consumers through tastings, workshops, and storytelling that emphasise the rich history and dedication to quality that define USA cheese.”

Spoilt for choice

Moving away from the stereotype of American cheeses as pre-sliced, affordable processed products will also require upgrading consumer understanding regarding the different types of premium US cheese available in the market from mozzarella to cheddar and what have been termed ‘quintessential American Originals’ - cream cheese, Monterey jack, pepper jack, and Colby jack cheeses.

“The United States stands as the world's largest exporter of cheese, producing a staggering 6.3 million metric tons last year,”​ Ghazalay added.

“This was 18% more than the combined output of the top three European Union producers (Germany, France, and Italy) - The number one US produced cheese is mozzarella, representing 34% of total cheese production, with cheddar a close second, representing 29% of total production.

“As it is, the US cheese industry boasts a range of over 1,000 varieties [and we] recognise the distinct preferences each market has.

“We also understand the importance of aligning with local expectations [and aim] to bridge the gap between the rich heritage of USA cheese and the unique tastes of Southeast Asia.”

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