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March 13, 2020
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Caputo Cheese redefines Mozzarella with new CBD-infused Elevated Cow


Photo courtesy of Caputo Cheese
FRESH TAKE — Caputo Cheese specializes in traditional Italian-style fresh and aged cheeses for pizza and foodservice. Its new Elevated Cow line, featuring fresh Mozzarella balls and slices infused with CBD, is set to launch April 20 and will be available for both retail and foodservice.


Photo courtesy of Caputo Cheese

AWARD-WINNING CHEESE — Head Cheese Monger Jason Herbert showcases a selection of
Caputo’s fresh Mozzarella March 5 at the World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin, where Caputo placed first for its Burrata and Mini Nodini and second for its hand-dipped Ricotta Red.

By Rena Archwamety

MELROSE PARK, Ill. — Caputo Cheese has specialized in traditional Italian cheeses since the family-owned business started in 1978 as a small Italian import shop. Initially supplying local pizza shops in Chicago, Caputo Cheese still serves the pizza industry but now on a national and international scale, working with large restaurant chains and foodservice distributors.

Natale Caputo, president of Caputo Cheese, notes that in addition to Mozzarella, his company offers Burrata, Romano, Ricotta and other specialty soft and hard Italian cheeses. He says he receives many requests for unique products as his customers look to differentiate themselves.

“Everyone is trying to stand out in one way or another. We get a lot of odd inquiries, so nothing is ‘crazy’ anymore,” he says. “Fresh Mozzarella is still booming, and we still see an upward trend.”

Caputo Cheese is poised to stand out and rise above with its latest twist on fresh Mozzarella — Elevated Cow, a line of cannabidiol- or CBD-infused fresh Mozzarella. The first products in this line include an 8-ounce cup of Bocconcini balls, a 5-ounce Ovolini ball and 8-ounce slices. Elevated Cow officially will launch April 20, or “4/20.”

“It’s a whole new world. It’s very Star Trek, where no man has gone before. CBD up until now has been mostly relegated to tinctures or homeopathic supplements, or put into snacks,” says Agela Abdullah, marketing director, Caputo Cheese.

“Snacks only get you so far, but sometimes a girl wants lasagna,” she says.

Caputo says he is a fan of CBD in other forms such as oils and gummies, and the new Elevated Cow line combines two things he loves — cheese and stress reduction. He believes his company is the first ever to market it in a cheese formulation.

“The opportunities are endless — pizza, pasta, as a snack — it can be used in any way you eat cheese,” he says. “It can be cooked and reacts the same as everyday cheese. The potency stays the same. It’s a really awesome product.”

• Regulation and testing

Though derived from the cannabis plant, CBD does not contain THC, the psychoactive component contained in marijuana that causes a “high.” Even so, Caputo Cheese does not recommend its Elevated Cow line for children.

“Since CBD is a supplement, we want to make sure people using CBD Mozzarella know this is a supplement also. So if they have a medical condition or take medications, they should talk to a doctor as if they would when taking a new supplement,” Abdullah says. “We do recommend it’s for adults. When it gets to the retail level we can give them recommendations, but it’s up to the stores to enforce.”

CBD products are ubiquitous across natural product markets, convenience stores and supplement shops, but the substance is not yet regulated by FDA. A decision appears to be coming soon, and in the meantime, Caputo Cheese is prepared to take on any questions and provide supporting documentation for its Elevated Cow products.

“The FDA was the biggest challenge. We’re all still sitting around waiting for them to make a decision,” Caputo says. “FDA should make a decision in the next month or so, and we’re ready.”

Elevated Cow cheeses meanwhile are available to customers, and Caputo Cheese has taken steps to ensure consistent potency and quality.

“We’re using a very refined source of CBD which is tasteless and odorless, really infusing the cleanest possible version of CBD,” Caputo says. “We wanted to make it affordable, and at the same time accomplish a goal. There are 5 milligrams of CBD per ounce of cheese. We can produce an 8-ounce package that is competitively priced and should retail around the $9.99 level.”

In its development process, the cheese was tested after every step to ensure it was not losing its CBD component through brining, pulling or even in post-production baking and heating for recipes.

The finished CBD-infused cheese then is sent to third-party labs for testing, and Caputo’s customers and consumers can access results through a QR code printed directly on the label, which when scanned will bring up the lot number of the cheese and its specifications from the testing.

“This gives retailers, restaurant owners and chefs peace of mind,” Abdullah says. “We want to make sure we have transparency for customers so when they’re turning the cheese into salads, pizzas or whatever they choose, they have confidence in it.”

• Experimental market

With its portion-controlled packaging and novel branding, Elevated Cow is ideally suited for retail at places like natural foods markets or anywhere CBD is being sold on the shelf, Caputo says. The product also has received interest from a niche group of restaurateurs.

“We’ve had a lot of hemp pizza inquiries. People who are using hemp in their pizza crust also are looking at CBD Mozzarella, or to put it on salads. There are lots of ‘cannabis’ chefs inquiring at this point as well,” Caputo says.

Abdullah, a former chef, says she would have liked to work with a product like CBD Mozzarella but would have had hesitations over dosing requirements. The fact that Elevated Cow is already created and tested for precise levels of CBD takes away these concerns for chefs, she says.

“We started doing a little bit of advertising in January, putting out feelers, and almost immediately started getting questions and emails,” she says. “I think it’s a thing the public has wanted, but not known how to do it.”

As the company prepares for its full marketing launch in April, Caputo has started experimenting with other possible cheese types that could be introduced in the future under the Elevated Cow brand.

“Fresh Mozzarella was the first item we chose to work on because that’s where we see the biggest growth. We’ve been excited with its success so far,” Caputo says. “Now we’re looking at hard types, whether it’s a grated cheese or a rub on the outside of a Parmesan.”

Though Caputo does not have a desire to go beyond CBD for its cheese, the legalization of marijuana in states like Illinois does raise more interest in products such as these, Abdullah notes.

“I think a lot of people are looking for an alternative to that. For years, people were talking about changing the laws, and in the last couple of years, CBD has become popular outside of the natural foods market,” she says.

“People want to experience the positive effects of incorporating it into their diet, and this is a way to do it freely,” Abdullah adds. “We want to take the worry, the timid factor out of it. It’s cheese. We all know cheese, we love cheese. We do with it what we would do with cheese. It’s a great opportunity for restaurants and chefs to do that, to clutch on to that wave that’s coming.”

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