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Cheese—a food long shunned for its saturated fat and sodium content, yet ironically, per-capita consumption has been on an upswing forever—is being openly embraced by consumers for its protein content, flavor versatility and snacking convenience.

Science shows that saturated fat is no longer associated with heart disease, as once believed. And research indicates that fat, in particular, animal fat, is no longer the enemy.

Hot-off-the-presses research from Coast Packing Company and Ipsos Research indicates that younger Americans are more receptive to animal fats in their diet than their elders, and are eating accordingly.

A survey of 1,000 adults conducted in mid-November examined how attitudes about animal fats in the American diet have changed in recent years, and how consumption patterns may be changing as well. Respondents were asked whether they were more or less open to animal fats, and whether those views extended to actual behavior. The clear finding: where animal fats are concerned, youth will be served.

This is an excellent opportunity to get creative in snacking cheeses geared towards the palates of the millennial generation.

According to the survey, those in the 18 to 34 age bracket are twice as open to animal fats as the next oldest group (35 to 54)—15% vs. 7%–and three times as open as those 55 and over (5%). Behavior does indeed follow attitudes. By a wide margin, those 18 to 34 are leading the charge back to animal fats. Thirteen percent say their consumption has increased. In fact, consumption is dramatically higher than those 35 to 54 (5%) and those 55-plus years (2%). Just 28% of those 18 to 34 say they have reduced their intake of animal fats, vs. 33% of those 35 to 54 and 46% of those 55-plus years.

“Millennials are concluding that animal fats have been demonized for too long,” says Eric Gustafson, CEO of Coast Packing Company. “The reality is that animal fats, in moderation, are not as problematic as they once were thought to be. And in today’s foodie culture, taste is increasingly on par with health concerns.”

Age is the most decisive differentiator among the various demographic filters, the survey found. Flipping the age bracket around, a greater percentage of those 55 and up were less open to animal fats (35%) than any other age group, by a roughly 10% margin. Those 35 to 54 were most set in their ways, with 67% indicating that there had been no change in their attitudes in recent years.

By gender, men are more open to animal fats than women (11%, compared to 7% for women); similarly, a smaller percentage of men reported being less open to animal fats (27%, to 31% for women). Think manly cheese snacks, big sticks in bold flavors.

To request a complete copy of the survey results, link HERE.

This research supports findings published in another hot-off-the-presses report, the annual trends publication–What’s in Store–from the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA). In its 30th year of credible reporting, What’s in Store 2016 is an essential dairy-deli-supermarket foodservice-bakery-cheese resource providing vital data on the retail and market trends, growth and category changes shaping the food industry.

According to IDDBA findings, 53% of shoppers are now opting for smaller snacks; 47% say they really enjoy anything new and different or trying new kinds of ethnic cuisine; and 61% are now opting for healthier snacks.

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