The dairy industry is an innovative field, always working to meet or anticipate consumer needs and adjust products and manufacturing practices to suit the marketplace. So, it comes as no surprise that we are already considering the cheeses of the future.
As we discuss this topic it is essential to keep the consumer in mind. Consumers and retailers are looking for great flavor (for example, fruity Parmesan), convenience (shelf-stable cheese), nutritional benefits (cheese with added vitamins, probiotics, reduced sodium, bioactive peptides) and consistent quality (new packaging concepts that help prevent defects during distribution, like mold growth, pinking, crystals). So it is key that we consider these needs as we look towards the future of cheese.
There are also going to be many new consumers (children, seniors, export markets) which offer an exciting opportunity; they may be more open to bolder flavors and new packaging concepts or styles.
Based on consumer trends, there are at least three possible areas of focus for dairy researchers and manufacturers. These are:
Creating flavor consistency is a desirable trait in any cheese, but being able to control flavor during the aging process will become more important as we look to the cheeses of the future. In particular, it will likely become more desirable to have an intense, unique flavor in cheese that is easily maintained and controlled.
Additionally, the demand for quick flavor development is likely to increase, so focusing on a culture that could rapidly develop flavor should be a major focus of the industry. That particular flavor profile will also need to be maintained during distribution and shelf-life. Some traditional cheese varieties may branch out in their flavor development into non-traditional areas. A good example of this is the rapid expansion of “sweet” aged Cheddars that have Parmesan flavor notes as well as Cheddar flavor notes. New cultures or enzymes and novel flavoring systems could play important roles in this flavor revolution, so it will be important for researchers and cheese manufacturers alike to focus efforts on the development of more pronounced flavors.