1 - cheese board Record Highs in Retail Cheese Sales Reflect Essential Worker Excellence through COVID-19

Record Highs in Retail Cheese Sales Reflect Essential Worker Excellence through COVID-19

From grilled cheese sandwiches to mac and cheese, cheese provides nutrition and comfort for Americans stuck at home during COVID-19. Here we celebrate the #essential workers who are working hard to handle the surging demand for cheese.

Demand for Cheese on the Rise

As of last month, cheese manufacturing facilities across the country have been running at full capacity—or beyond capacity—to keep up with the surging demand for cheese.1 While foodservice demand dropped off significantly due to restaurant and school closures, retail cheese demand increased. Initially, due to consumer stockpiling, retail sales of cheese were up more than 70% compared to the same time last year but have since leveled off to about 20-30% of last year’s numbers.2

In addition to strong retail sales, the recent reopening of some restaurants is contributing to the rising demand for cheese. A third factor is the USDA's new Farmers to Families Food Box Program, which was enacted under the authority of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

Through this program, the USDA purchases fresh foods (including milk and cheese) to distribute to those in need. More than 30 million family-sized food boxes have been delivered to food banks, community organizations, and other non-profits.

Understanding the Recent Cheese Market Volatility

Cheese manufacturers have had a challenging past few months due to record-setting volatility in the cheese market in response to COVID-19. Last month, the price of block cheddar reached a historic high at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), where wholesale cheese is traded.  The price of wholesale cheddar jumped to $2.81 per pound on June 9 (compared with $1 per pound in mid-April)3 and increased yet again to $3.00 per pound on July 13. Young, mild cheddar cheese serves as the benchmark for the cheese industry, with the prices of all other cheeses based on the price of cheddar.

2 - man at computer Record Highs in Retail Cheese Sales Reflect Essential Worker Excellence through COVID-19

After the COVID-19 outbreak, closures and other restrictions placed on foodservice operations like schools and restaurants caused total cheese demand to plummet. With the pandemic in full swing, there was also the challenge of ensuring that manufacturing plants could run at capacity, which came with a noticeable increase in costs and time to keep employees safe while also ensuring supply chain continuity. Increased retail buying was not enough to compensate for the loss in demand or the increase in production costs. The glut in cheese led to a drop in prices as manufacturers worked to reduce their stockpiles.

These resulting low prices made U.S. cheese attractive to foreign markets, which led to an increase in cheese exports. This provided a much-needed boost in demand. Additional demand from the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program, and now the reopening of restaurant dining, has made this a busy time for #essential workers in the cheese industry.

3 - essential cheese workers cheese factory

#Essential Cheese Workers Step Up to the Challenge

Demand uncertainties and price fluctuations in the cheese market have impacted operations functions ranging from raw material purchasing to employee scheduling. #Essential workers in the cheese industry have been responsive and resilient in managing these day-to-day challenges, in addition to the many new requirements around cleaning, sanitizing, social distancing, and personal protective equipment.

We owe these #essential food workers—and all of those involved in keeping our food supply chain strong—a heartfelt thank you for their efforts. Here at Glanbia Nutritionals, we especially wish to celebrate our own team members who are working hard each day, committed to producing high-quality cheeses and other ingredients for our customers.

Contact Glanbia Nutritionals to learn about our portfolio of delicious and nutritious cheeses.


1. Howard, F., Record-High Cheese Prices Could Spur Expansion, June 2020. Retrieved from https://www.milkbusiness.com/article/record-high-cheese-prices-could-spur-expansion
2-3. Phillips, M., What’s Gotten Into the Price of Cheese, June 2020. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/22/business/cheese-cheddar-prices.html

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