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Cheese-lovers and cheese-investors across the world will be happy to hear that the global cheese market is thriving. Despite setbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic, which unfortunately affected business in almost every industry, the cheese industry sees growing demand.
According to the IMARC Group in their most recent report on the subject, the cheese industry is a huge global industry that reached a total market value of over $72 billion in 2020. The IMARC Group expects that, by the year 2026, the global cheese market will reach a value of $105.93 billion with a compound growth rate of 6.81% in the next five years.
Whether from cow, goat, or buffalo milk, cheese is enjoyed by individuals worldwide in a wide variety of different ways for its flavor, versatility, and health benefits. There are many different types of cheeses with their own unique flavor, texture, and history, and some of the most popular on the market include cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, and feta.
In some parts of the world, especially Western Europe and North America, cheese is consumed regularly as a part of many different meals. It holds the distinction of being the most widely eaten fermented food in the world.
Though you may not immediately think of cheese as healthy food, it does possess a few nutritional benefits that marketers are using as a selling point in an increasingly health-conscious food landscape.
Cheese is a good source of protein and vitamins and minerals such as calcium, zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin, which are all essential nutrients for various bodily functions.
Marketing strategies within the cheese market now keep in mind consumer demands for healthier or lower-fat options. Manufacturers continue to respond to this trend by creating products with nutrient content in mind.
Typically, however, the aforementioned benefits are found in natural cheese products but not processed cheese. A large part of cheese’s growing global popularity, though, is due to processed cheese products.
As largely American fast-food chains continue to spread globally, so does the American processed cheese habit. Processed food, rising incomes, and fast food chains in more and more countries are all products of increasing globalization. China and India are both representatives of this phenomenon which have been increasingly active in the cheese market.
Top 12 Largest Cheese Manufacturing Companies in the World
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $24.3 billion
If you know anything about the food processing industry, you’re probably not surprised to see Swiss multinational mega-conglomerate Nestle at the top of our list. Since 2014, Nestle has been the single largest food company globally, and when it comes to dairy and cheese products, the numbers are no different.
Officially founded 155 years ago in 1866 by Henri Nestle, Nestle now operates in 189 countries, operates 447 factories, and employs 339,000 employees worldwide. Alongside cheese and dairy products, the company manufactures various foods, including beverages, cereal, baby foods, seasonings, and more.
There is no denying that Nestle is a powerful corporation with a large presence in our everyday lives. It has seen its fair share of controversies over the years with significant issues, including environmental protection and human rights issues.
It has had a hand in lobbying and creating social responsibility programs. Nestle also increases its returns by holding shares in other large companies, such as Loreal.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $20.8 billion
Coming in at number two on our list is a company that specializes in dairy and manufactures only dairy products, the French Lactalis, formerly known as Besnier SA. Lactalis owns a wide variety of cheese, butter, and milk brands including Président, Siggi’s Dairy, Rachel’s Organic, Stonyfield Farm, and more.
Lactalis was founded by Andre Besnier 87 years ago in 1933 and began as a small cheesemaking company. This company is now the second-largest food products group in France and remains in the primary ownership of the Besnier family. Lactalis employs around 75,000 individuals at x worksites in y countries worldwide.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $18 billion
Danone SA is our third entry on this list and the second largest French cheese manufacturing company. Danone is a multinational food products company manufacturing dairy and non-dairy items, beverages, and infant formula. Danone oversees brands such as Silk, Actimel, Activia, and more.
Originally founded in Barcelona, Spain, in 1919 by Isaac Carasso, the company is now based in Paris, France, and names Gilles Schnepp as its chairman. The company currently has approximately 102,449 employees in 55 countries, and its products are available in 120 countries worldwide. However, it makes the majority of its sales in the United States, China, and France.
Fonterra. New Zealand.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $14.3 billion
Our first bit of New Zealand representation on this list, Fonterra, is a dairy co-operative owned by more than 10,000 New Zealand farmers. Fonterra offers several dairy products under brand names, including Anchor, Mainland, and Western Star both nationally and abroad.
Fonterra was founded in 2001, out of the merger of the two largest dairy co-operatives in New Zealand, New Zealand Dairy Group and Kiwi Co-operative Dairies, along with the New Zealand Dairy Board. The company now employs over 21,400 employees and is responsible for around 30% of the world’s dairy exports.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $13.8 billion
FrieslandCampina, our first Dutch entry on our list, is a multinational dairy cooperative. The co-operative was born out of a merger between Friesland Foods and Campina in 2008, though its origins go back to 1879, and it holds the title of the world’s largest co-operative title.
FrieslandCampina manages many different international dairy product brands, including Friesche Vlag, Chocomel, Dutch Lady, and Milner, which are available in over 100 countries. The company employs about 21,927 people in 33 countries and names Hein Schumacher as its CEO.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $13.6 billion
At number six, we have our first American entry, the Kansas-based milk marketing co-operative Dairy Farmers of America. Founded in 1998, this co-operative consists of more than 13,000 dairy farmers, representing approximately 7,500 dairy farms in 47 U.S. states.
Not including farmer-owners, Dairy Farmers of America employs around 6,000 individuals in the United States. Its products are available globally, and some of the most notable brands under its name are Borden Cheese, California Gold, Falfurrias, and Kemps.
Arla Foods. Denmark and Sweden.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $12.4 billion
Arla Foods amba is a multinational Danish and Swedish dairy product co-operative, and it comes in on our list at a close seventh. Arla Foods was founded in 2000, with origins going back to the 1880s, and is now Scandinavia’s largest dairy products producer.
Arla Foods is owned by approximately 12,500 farmers located in seven countries across western Europe and Scandinavia. The company employs around 18,765 and operates brands such as Castello cheese.
Yili Group. China.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $11.2 billion
Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Company Limited, or more simply Yili Group, comes in at our number eight spot, asserting itself as the leader in Chinese dairy production. Besides cheese, Yili Group manufactures products like ice cream, milk, and milk tea powder. The company holds the distinction of being the world’s 3rd best-performing food brand.
Yili Group was founded in 1993 out of a longstanding Chinese dairy cooperative, and it currently names Pan Gang as its chairman. The company has a whopping 59,052 employees across China.
Saputo Inc. Canada.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $11 billion
At a very close number nine, we have the Canadian giant Saputo Inc based in Montreal, Quebec. Along with cheese, Saputo Inc produces other dairy products such as milk, cream, and cultured dairy products. The company was founded in 1954 by Lino Saputo, who still holds the executive chairman position.
Outside of Canada, Saputo products can be found in the United States, England, Australia, and Argentina. The company employs 16,800 people and holds the rights to Dairyland, Cracker Barrel cheese, Frigo Cheese Heads, and Little Caesars.
Mengniu Dairy. China.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $10.3 billion
China Mengniu Dairy Company Limited, or Mengniu Dairy, is our second Chinese entry, and it rounds off our top ten list. Mengniu Dairy operates under the Mengniu brand to provide milk, yogurt, beverages, ice cream, and other dairy products across China.
Mengniu Dairy was founded in 1995 and currently holds Ning Gaoning as its chairman. The company employs around 30,000 employees.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $7.5 billion
Operating out of Dallas, Texas, Dean Foods comes in at number eleven and is the largest subsidiary company on our list. Founded in 1925, Dean Foods grew to be a national leader in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter. The company employs around 14,500 people in 32 states.
In 2020, Dean Foods was acquired by the number six entry on this list, Dairy Farmers of America. Dean Foods was experiencing financial trouble due to, they claimed, the growing popularity of plant-based dairy products. Still, Dean Foods had a large enough revenue in the last available year to land them a spot on this list, just shy of the top ten.
Unilever. The Netherlands.
Dairy Product Revenue (USD): $6.7 billion
Based on the Netherlands (sort of), our final entry on this list is multinational mega-corporation Unilever. While technically this company is headquartered out of London, England, the dairy product revenue comes entirely from their Dutch subsidiary company Margarine Unie.
Still, this subsidiary company had a large enough revenue to land it a spot on our list.
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