Making cheese predates recorded history, but artisan cheesemaking in the U.S. is a relatively new industry. According to a 2016 American Cheese Society (ACS) report, there are more than 900 artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers operating in the United States. While a few artisan cheesemakers have been in business for over 100 years, the average has been making cheese for only 15 years.
Consumers love their cheese and are clear about what they want. It has to be easy to eat, portable, available in a variety of flavors and all-natural. These are the dominant themes from almost every cheese processor we spoke with. Convenience, flavor innovation, authenticity and freshness are key factors that will drive consumer cheese purchases, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Madison.
Karoun Dairies started out making cheeses for ethnic markets. Today, the cheesemaker is tapping into mainstream America’s taste for feta, queso fresco, labne and other specialty cheeses and cultured dairy foods.
Bel Brands USA is enjoying double-digit growth with its Mini Babybel brand. It opened a plant last year to meet demand for the little waxed-covered cheeses. President Frederic Nalis (right) talks about the success of the brand and the challenges yet to be overcome.
The U.S. Dairy Export Council, Arlington, Va., is supporting an ad-hoc coalition of 16 dairy companies and organizations fighting a plan to further restrict U.S. access to the tight Canadian cheese market.