Why do restaurants in the pizza, burger, and sandwich sector matter so much to dairy farmers? They are key partners in marketing an immense volume of cheese, especially staples like Mozzarella and Cheddar.

Wisconsin is the nation’s top producer of Cheddar and the second-largest producer of Mozzarella. These two varieties account for 42% of all cheese used in restaurants. Additionally, pizza, burgers, and sandwiches make up a 45% share of cheese sales.

Consumers continue to look for new items as well as their favorites on the menu. Through limited time offers, new types of cheeses are offered on menus and help drive incremental volume for Wisconsin cheese, also adding a price premium opportunity due to its reputation for taste and quality.

Just how much cheese?

• Restaurants, both limited and full-service, now account for approximately 80% of the total volume of cheese used in food service. This is up from 73% in 2018.

• Pizza, burger, and sandwich restaurants account for over half of food service cheese use. All three are heavy cheese users, and pizza restaurants performed particularly well during the pandemic.

• Total 2020 cheese consumption in the food service channel was estimated to be 4.66 billion pounds.

  • That amounts to 38% of total domestic cheese use.
  • The vast majority of this is natural cheese, with Mozzarella being the leading variety.
  • Mozzarella alone accounts for over a quarter of cheese used in this channel, but when pizza cheese is added, these two segments are responsible for a combined 41% of total food service cheese use.

Wisconsin cheese and pizza: the perfect blend

The origin, pride, ingredient quality and craftsmanship of Wisconsin cheese make it the ultimate choice for pizza, and it is also highly recognizable and trusted by consumers, holding the prestigious title of No. 1 top-of-mind cheese origin. Including the “Proudly Wisconsin Cheese” badge on the menu demonstrates a commitment to using quality, locally sourced ingredients and commands a 12% price premium on pizza menus.

Similarly, restaurants displaying the “Proudly Wisconsin Cheese” badge on their menu see a 5% to 10% increase in average check size. This boost makes perfect sense since Wisconsin cheese is synonymous with taste and quality — 88% of consumers say cheese quality affects their impression of a restaurant’s menu.

These quantifiable trust and affinity measures are great news for dairy farmers and cheesemakers because they help drive dairy sales. Plus, the data demonstrate the tremendous value we can deliver to supply chain partners, pizza pies, and palates nationwide.

These factors also provide a solid foundation as Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW) builds stronger relationships with restaurant and food service partners as they strive to differentiate themselves with quality menu options like Wisconsin cheese.

Understandably, this segment is of tremendous importance and interest as DFW seeks to drive demand for milk.

Learn more about Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin at wisconsindairy.org.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2022
February 14, 2022
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