Butterly delicious - How are dairy dishes evolving?

Tuesday, 14 March 2023

British people are still consuming more meals in the home compared to pre-Covid levels as there is still more working from home, with many employers moving to a hybrid-working model.  Despite this, the types of dishes we enjoy remains very similar to 2019.  But is the way we consume dairy products in our meals evolving as consumer priorities shift? 

According to the Kantar usage panel, which has looked back at the past 12 months to 25th Nov 2022, more than a third of our meals (35.4%) feature dairy making it one of the most common ingredients. However, this is down slightly from 36.2% a year ago, with decline visible across different times of the day.  Consumer needs have changed slightly with more focus on speed and ease, but also enjoyment, when preparing meals. 

Graph showing dairy features at 29% breakfast, 52% of lunch and 29% of evening meal occasions


Sandwiches remain king when it comes to choosing a lunchtime meal accounting for 34% of occasions.  Whilst this is down slightly (-1.6 %pts) on pre-Covid levels (as more people had time to focus on preparing more exciting meals), there has been a return to sandwiches of late as people are looking for cheap and easy options with shorter lists of ingredients.  Dairy fits perfectly here with sandwiches featuring butter being a common option.  As an example, in the 52-week ending 27th Nov 2022, we had 280m Ham Sandwiches with Butter Occasions – an extra 35m YoY.  Toast meals are also another area of opportunity for butter.

Cheese can also be used in sandwiches and toast meals as well as packaged in lunchboxes. In a typical week, 18% of British consumers take a packed lunch.  We had 1.5 billion lunchbox occasions in the last year, spending £3.1 billion (Kantar Usage 52 week ending to 30th Oct 22).

Evening meals

Dairy products can feature in many of the top dishes enjoyed in British households. The biggest opportunities we have identified are Italian dishes which account for 11.5% of evening meal occasions, up 0.2%pts year-on-year and pre-Covid. 33.8% of Italian dishes served in the evening feature cheese, which has been in growth over time. However, this growth has not come from dishes which just include cheese as a topping such as Bolognese or arrabiatta, both of which declined.  Rather the growth came from pasta dishes (up by 19 million occasions year-on-year) particularly featuring cheese, giving opportunities for speciality cheese producers. The growth here is particularly led by children aged 5-14, who feature at 30.4% of these occasions.       

Perennial favourite, pizza, accounts for another 6.3% share of evening meals.  Cheeses such as mozzarella and cheddar have an opportunity here.  Also in growth are Indian meals, accounting for 5.1% of evening meal occasions, presenting an opportunity for producers of plain yogurt, paneer and accompaniments such as lassi. 


Image of staff member Susie Stannard

Susie Stannard

Lead Analyst (Dairy)

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