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Cheese of the Month - April 2017

Cream cheese, Neufchatel offer culinary applications

Editor’s Note: “Cheese of the Month” is Cheese Market News’ exclusive profile series exploring various cheese types. Each month, CMN highlights a different cheese in this feature, giving our readers a comprehensive look at production, marketing, sales and in-depth aspects of each profiled cheese type. Please read on to learn about this month’s featured cheeses: Cream and Neufchatel.

By Stephanie Awe

MADISON, Wis. — Cream cheese, an American original, became popular around 1880, according to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB). Around this time, dairy facilities underwent a change with the invention of a separator, making it possible to separate the whey from hot solids — a process that allowed cheesemakers to pack the curd hot, and the shelf life for the finished cheese doubled, WMMB says.

Cream cheese came about in 1872 from a dairyman in Chester, New York, according to Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Chicago. In 1880, a New York cheese distributor, A.L. Reynolds, first began distributing this cream cheese wrapped in tin-foil wrappers, calling it Philadelphia Brand.

The name “Philadelphia” was adopted by Reynolds because, at the time, high-quality products originated in or were associated with the city, says Jessica Ryan, director of brand building, Philadelphia.

Typically, when making cream cheese in the United States today, a centrifugal curd separator or ultrafiltration is utilized to separate whey from the curd and obtain the desired fat and moisture contents, according to Rani Govindasamy-Lucey, Ph.D., senior scientist of cheese research, and John Jaeggi, cheese industry and applications coordinator, Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research.

Some smaller, or artisanal, companies, however, separate the cream cheese curd from whey by hanging the curd in muslin bags, allowing the whey to drain. This process can range from about 16 hours to three days, Govindasamy-Lucey and Jaeggi say. Cream cheese usually is made from pasteurized whole or higher-fat cow’s milk, they add.

According to FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations, cream cheese must contain a milkfat minimum of 33 percent by weight of the finished food, and it has a maximum moisture content of 55 percent by weight.

Cream cheese’s lower-fat counterpart, Neufchatel, must contain a milkfat content that is not less than 20 percent but less than 33 percent by weight of the finished food, and the maximum moisture content is 65 percent by weight.

Neufchatel, which originates from the Neufchatel en Bray village of Normandy, France, Govindasamy-Lucey and Jaeggi say, has a lower fat content than cream cheese, meaning its protein and moisture contents are thus higher.

“When you decrease the fat content, the protein and moisture contents go up. Thus, there will be more protein in Neufchatel cheese than cream cheese,” Govindasamy-Lucey says, adding that findings through a study in which she took part found Neufchatel often ranges from about 7.2- to 8.8-percent protein.

“Because the fat is lower, Neufchatel sometimes tends to have a grainier mouthfeel.”

• Retail sales

Cream cheese retail volume sales have seen modest gains over the last five years, up 0.4 percent in the latest 52 weeks as of March 19, 2017 (fixed weight only, U.S. multi-outlet and convenience stores), according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI) data courtesy of Dairy Management Inc.

Last year, the lowest average price per pound was $3.76 in December, while the highest average price per pound was $4.52 in August.

Eighty-seven percent of cream cheese volume sold is regular fat, up 1.9 percent from a year ago as of March 19, 2017, according to the IRI data. Light and reduced-fat cream cheese comprised 12 percent of sales, a 5.6-percent decline compared to last year.

• Marketing tactics, product innovations

When it comes to cream cheese, Franklin Foods, Delray Beach, Florida, has noticed a growing trend toward better, easier and wholesome eating, says Rocco Cardinale, vice president of marketing, Franklin Foods.

As a full-line manufacturer, Franklin Foods’ products consist of Cultured Cream Cheese, Cream Cheese, Neufchatel Cheese, Whipped Cream Cheese, Organic Cream Cheese, Greek Cream Cheese and more.

The company’s retail brands are Green Mountain Farms and Hahn’s cream cheese. All of Franklin Foods’ products are available nationally and internationally, and the company distributes cream cheese to industry segments including retail private label, foodservice, industrial ingredients, custom applications and export.

With its recent acquisition by Hochland SE, a privately-held Bavaria, Germany-based cheese company, Franklin Foods will have a greater scale to deliver its products both nationally and internationally, says Jon Gutknecht, president and CEO, Franklin Foods.

Franklin Foods will continue to operate independently as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hochland SE, says Petra Berners, public relations manager, Hochland SE.

“Franklin’s strong manufacturing and sales platform in the U.S. cream cheese market complements Hochland’s international growth strategy,” Berners says.

And with the momentum created from the launch of the Franklin Foods’ Greek Cream Cheese in retail, foodservice and private label markets, the company plans to continue innovating, Gutknecht says.

Overall, there continues to be a great deal of innovation in the category as companies work to meet consumers’ snacking needs.

To address on-the-go consumers who are looking for food solutions that are less processed and can easily fit into their lifestyles, Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese recently introduced Cheesecake Cups and Bagel Chips & Cream Cheese Dips.

Philadelphia’s Cheesecake Cups provide a rich and creamy cheesecake in a pre-portioned cup. Available at retailers nationwide, the cups are offered in four flavors including Cheesecake with Strawberries, Cheesecake with Milk Chocolate Sauce, Cheesecake with Cherries and Cheesecake with Salted Caramel Sauce, according to the company.

The brand’s new Bagel Chips & Cream Cheese Dip varieties, also available at retailers nationwide, are portable snack cups that include multigrain bagel chips and a choice of Strawberry, Garden Vegetable, Onion & Chive or Brown Sugar & Cinnamon Cream Cheese Dip.

Philadelphia also is introducing a new Garlic & Herb Cream Cheese spread, adding to its portfolio of spreads that includes other flavors such as Original, Smoked Salmon, Pineapple and Spicy Jalapeno.

The new products are supported with a marketing program driving trial and awareness to key consumers, using outlets such as television, in-store promotions and social media. Philadelphia also launched a creative campaign in the United States in January called “It Must Be Philly,” which showcases the ingredients that go into the brand’s products, Ryan says.

The more than 140-year-old brand offers a wide variety of cream cheeses and flavors, all made with real fruits and vegetables that incorporate no artificial preservatives, flavors or dyes, Ryan adds.

At Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., Willows, California, the company offers cream cheese varieties that are made using traditional methods. Its natural, organic and Gina Marie varieties are made with the same recipe that includes cultured milk, cream and salt, says Meghan Rodgers, sales and marketing, Sierra Nevada Cheese.

She adds the milk and cream are cultured overnight and then packed into muslin bags. No gums or stabilizers are added, Rodgers says.

“It’s really what cream cheese should be,” Rodgers says of the company’s traditional make processes, which allow the whey time to drain. These methods deliver a “true old-fashioned flavor,” she says.

Gina Marie, a cream cheese brand that Sierra Nevada Cheese bought from Hilmar Cheese in Hilmar, California, has been around for about 50 years and was named after the original owner’s daughter, Rodgers says. Sierra Nevada Cheese has not changed the packaging in an effort to keep its unique and traditional packaging, she adds.

In addition, the company expects to introduce an old-fashioned Neufchatel this summer. While the company plans to release it first to Whole Foods locations in the Southwest, the product later will become available for other retailers as well. The cheese will be made using the same process as the company’s Gina Marie cheese but will use less cream, Rodgers says.

Schreiber Foods, Green Bay, Wisconsin, offers various cream and Neufchatel varieties in formats such as tubs and cups. It primarily is a customer brand company, providing its cream cheeses to food manufacturers, retail customers and foodservice customers, says Andrew Tobisch, director of communications, Schreiber Foods.

While Schreiber Foods’ marketing efforts are done mostly through its customers, Tobisch notes opportunities for the company’s cream cheese are present in every segment — whether it be retail, foodservice or another outlet — and he has noticed a growing demand from chefs, especially.

“(Cream cheese is) a culinary glue that’s a great flavor carrier,” Tobisch says, adding that it is a versatile cheese and can be an ingredient people feel good about using and consuming.

• Applications

Use of cream cheese on bagels is on the rise, according to Ryan, who notes that the NPD Group, Port Washington, New York, reported that annual eatings per capita of bagels at home also are up slightly over the last three years.

“It’s also exciting to see consumers expanding their usage of cream cheese to new occasions and foods,” Ryan says. “Philly has long been enjoyed as a cool, fresh and creamy addition to a hot bagel — but consumers are increasingly enjoying Philadelphia taste and quality as an ingredient in creamy dips and dishes; in desserts like cheesecake and cream cheese frosting; or on its own as a snack on crackers or veggies.”

Franklin Foods, which has been in business for more than 100 years, follows strict production protocols and time-honored recipes that result in the tang and texture of the company’s cream cheese, says Andy Phillips, vice president of foodservice and industrial sales, Franklin Foods.

“We have proven formulations for performance and functionality that satisfies the most discerning professional chefs and bakers,” Phillips says. “Our products are highly versatile and easy to use for the at-home chef.”

Phillips notes that the company’s cream cheeses, being versatile, work well for use in cheesecakes, frostings, fillings, pastries, sauces and appetizers. There also is growing demand in the Asian and Hispanic markets, Phillips says.

“Asian chefs have long used cream cheese in their crab rangoon recipes,” Phillips says. “As for the Hispanic market, cream cheese is a prominent ingredient featured in many sweet and savory traditional pastries, such as the boleo and the quesito. The cream cheese is typically rolled into the dough and baked. In this case, different fruit fillings may accompany the cream cheese. Variations are common depending upon the region.”

Schreiber Foods’ cream cheeses traditionally are used in cheesecakes, on bagels, as a pastry filling or a frosting base, as well as in soups, dips and sushi, Tobisch says. More recently, it is being used as a flavored spread in dips straight from the cup and on sandwiches or wraps. In addition, he says it is increasingly appearing as fillings for waffles or crepes, in ice cream, on burgers and as white sauce on pizza.

These applications showcase the cheese’s versatility, Tobisch says, noting that Schreiber Foods always is looking for new applications to help fuel growth.

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