Savoring the cottage cheese ‘moment’

  • 3 min read August 1, 2023
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

Picking your favorite dairy food is sort of like choosing a favorite child.

As a dairy farmer I love them all, of course, but if I’m being honest, I have a special place for my cottage cheese. It’s my go-to dairy food because it can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. It’s my secret ingredient in my lasagna recipe and I love a bowl of it with orange slices or olives or even tuna fish.

Cottage cheese comes with a bit of a stigma as an older person’s food, and it’s never really caught on with many younger consumers. But in today’s world, it sometimes just takes a good old-fashioned social media push for something to “have a moment” as the media sometimes reports when a trend catches fire. (You may recall Feta “had a moment” a few years ago after a TikTok recipe craze.)

We’re in the middle of a cottage cheese moment for sure thanks to some social media efforts that are focused on its wonderful diversity.

Could you ever have imagined ice cream is being made from cottage cheese?

Neither did I but the social media world sees it differently. Some notable dietitians, such as @nutritionbykylie and @chicago.dietitian, posted about it on their channels and it caught the attention of The Pioneer Woman. The checkoff’s social media team promoted a Cottage Cheese and Fruit Blender Ice Cream recipe in July, which happened to be National Ice Cream Month.

And guess what? Social media is eating up cottage cheese. The hashtag #cottagecheeseicecream has more than 40 million views on TikTok and #cottagecheeserecipe has 111 million-plus views on the same channel.

This social media activity has no doubt had an impact where it matters most for dairy farmers: at the checkout line. In the 52-week period ending July 16, cottage cheese sales were at $1.3 billion, up 17 percent from a year ago during the same time frame. To show how hot the product is, sales have especially climbed since April and about 28 percent of U.S. households purchased cottage cheese over the latest 16-week period (up 1.5 points from a year ago). The largest jump was among Gen X consumers (ages 43 to 58) at 16 percent, but what’s interesting is to see growth among Millennials (ages 27 to 42) at 8 percent.

Now, I’m not pretending cottage cheese will save the day for farmers during these ever-growing economic challenges we’re facing. Its overall volume numbers still fall far below the milk, cheese and yogurt categories.

But I will say it brings me some hope to know our country’s younger generation is open to dairy in innovative ways. They are a consumer base that cares about the quality aspects of foods, especially those that are low in sugar and high in protein and labels that aren’t complex. Cottage cheese delivers on these fronts, and it proves dairy can hold appeal and relevance to them. They just sometimes need an innovative social media push to bring awareness to their world.

That is why I applaud the checkoff’s efforts of working with social media influencers as we have done with major gaming personalities such as MrBeast and creating the “Dairy Dream Team” of influential chefs and foodies. It's a far cry from the days of traditional advertising and it sometimes doesn’t always make sense to those of us who grew up walking to the end of a driveway to retrieve a newspaper.

But what does make sense is the reality that for dairy to remain relevant, we must stay up with – if not ahead of – the changing times and consumer interests. Our checkoff is doing that by constantly monitoring and reacting to consumer trends and identifying the best ways we can reach and communicate with them.

So, while the idea of making ice cream from cottage cheese never previously crossed my mind, I’m good with it if it appeals to a generation of consumers who see their food choices in ways I never could have imagined.

In fact, I might even give it a try!