Whey it up: is it time for more cheese options like Cypriot anari?

This ricotta-style cheese comes in a soft and hard variety and can be used from breakfast through to dinner.

11 March 2019
image credit: Getty Images

If you turn to the cheese category, it’s a pretty slow-moving beast. While innovation is churning out vegan cheese, when it comes to those containing dairy, the aisles are less active.

This isn’t helped by cheddar’s enduring popularity in the UK, with a consumer survey from Kantar Worldpanel finding that 86% of British households had brought cheddar in some form in the three months to October 2018. According to Mintel, nearly 90% of consumers eat cheese every month and two-thirds eat cheese at least twice a week.

But figures in January from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) showed continental-style cheeses are muscling in, continuing to increase their volume sales, with soft continentals up 6.6% year-on-year.

Halloumi is one European cheese that has reigned supreme in the UK, but some are hailing an import called anari as the next big thing. Cypriot producers make both cheeses at the same time, with halloumi made from the curd and anari from the whey.

Fresh, ricotta-style anari is generally made from goat’s or sheep’s milk and can be consumed fresh or dry. It’s said to be rich in protein and low in fat.

When served fresh, anari is usually eaten at breakfast with honey or jam, but can also be used to fill sweet and savoury pies. It is often salted and air-dried in the sun or oven, which transforms it into a hard and brittle cheese.

As it becomes too hard to cut, it can be used as a sweeter substitute for parmesan to grate over pasta or can be shaved onto the top of salads.

Both Nigella and Jamie Oliver have featured anari in cookbooks over the past couple of years, and a number of London street food outfits have been using it to carve out a space.

While Waitrose was the first supermarket to list anari cheese in the UK in 2016, it now appears to have been delisted.

Brexit blues and snacking

Despite all those claiming to go dairy-free, UK shoppers bought more cheese in the 12 months to January 2019 compared to last year, with volumes sold up 1.2% and spend up 2.7%, according to the AHDB. Interestingly, Aldi and Lidl have increased their volume of cheese sold by 11.5% and now constitute 20.7% of cheese sold in the Great British market by weight.

But with Brexit looming, continental cheeses like anari may be on the backburner. In good news, Britain does produce 700 varieties at home – 100 more than the French. Sales of British cheese amounted to £2.7bn a year, with cheddar, of course, accounting for half of that figure.

But Dairy Crest cheese marketing controller Nigel Marchant believes snacking will be the next big area of growth for cheese.

“We’ve worked with a number of retailers to introduce a dedicated destination adult snacking shelf in the main cheese fixture,” he told Food Spark’s sister site The Grocer. The brand is moving single-serve grab-and-go lines to front-of-store food-to-go chillers, making them more readily available and visible to shoppers on a ‘need it now’ mission, he added.

Can Sparkie see more dairy-ing choices in the cheese aisle?


Sparkie says:

The introduction of more ingredients from around the world will be helping to fuel the growing trend for traditional foods.

The cheese aisle is fairly stagnant really despite how the Finest section would make it seem, so the introduction of some new products could be good. At the moment, to find the new good products you have to go to a deli.

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