The square route to a nation’s stomach


The cheese slice. Believe it or not, it’s been a staple of the American diet since midway through the last century, eventually making its way to our shores where it has now established itself as a firm favourite in everything from a quick and easy sandwich to the ubiquitous cheeseburger.

But if the idea of a cheese slice summons up pictures of a thin, flexible, ‘orangy’ processed cheese, it may be time to take another look.

As our work and social habits undergo radical change, convenience eating is fast becoming one of the most important market sectors for the food service industry.

Food-on-the-go, fast food outlets, and even kids’ lunchboxes, are all witnessing unprecedented levels of change…and cheese figures at the heart of many of our choices.

And could there be a cheese better suited to ‘convenience’ than the humble cheese slice?


The ultimate ingredient

Ready cut, perfectly portion-controlled, and unbelievably easy to use, the cheese slice is the optimum ingredient for delivering cost effective meal solutions.

But where the processed slice once reigned supreme, a whole new generation of natural cheese slices is coming to the fore.

Today’s consumers are ‘choosier’ than ever before. They want to be offered fresher, healthier ingredients and meals. They want identifiable taste. They want provenance too…even with the food they’re grabbing on the hoof. And the boom in vegetarian and flexitarian eating is adding further to demand for a bigger, better choice.

Step up…the natural cheese slice and, with it, a golden opportunity for ingredients giants like Ornua Ingredients UK.


Now naturally better

With their recent acquisition of F J Need, OIUK has demonstrated its determination to enter a market showing all the signs of being the shape of things to come. And by ‘shape’, they’re not simply thinking ‘square’.

OIUK’s range of natural cheese slices introduces no fewer than 15 different varieties, including continentals like Emmental and Gouda, classic territorials like Red Leicester and Double Gloucester, and ‘big’ flavours like chilli and natural-smoked Cheddar.

And it isn’t simply a case of taste. Technical considerations are important too. Cue the expertise of cheese graders who are now being tasked with the job, not simply of determining flavour profiles and length of finish, but of selecting cheese with a texture and firmness that will lend itself to slicing without breaking, while still having a degree of essential ‘bend’.

For Richard Thorpe, OIUK’s Head of Marketing & Insights, it’s an exciting and challenging time.

“ By 2022, the UK’s food-to-go market will be worth in excess of £23Bn and cheese will be a mainstay ingredient. Cheese slices will offer the food service industry exactly the product it needs to keep one eye on costs, while the other is focused on delivering fabulous taste to an ever more discerning consumer.”

“That’s one of the reasons we’re not just simply supplying in line with current demand, but investing too in working with our customers to develop their products, and to identify the moment a trend starts taking shape so they can be first to market.”

It seems getting a slice of the action is very much the order of the day.


Extracts from this article first appeared in British Baker, March 2018

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