Branded cheddar cheese sales have gone into decline following previously strong growth, reflecting consumers’ changing buying habits in the economic downturn.

Despite growing by 22% between July 2009 and 2010, the sector shrank by 3.2% in the year to 10 July 2011. At the same time, standard supermarket own-label cheddar sales grew by 10%, said analyst Kantar. In a similar reversal of last year’s trends, mature cheddar sales slowed from 15% to -1% over the past 12 months, while sales of medium cheddar increased by 20%.

“This change in direction reflects a new ‘trading down’ trend in overall consumer shopping habits, with sales of budget and value groceries up 14% in the past 12 weeks in response to record levels of grocery price inflation,” said a report by DairyCo.

Meanwhile, global dairy commodity prices continue to slip, with Fonterra’s latest sale showing a 0.9% drop in average prices compared to the previous auction. Whole milk powder showed the biggest fall, of 2.2% across all contracts, while cheddar prices rose by 1.6%.