American cheese has been a staple in U.S. kitchens for decades, but Bloomberg reports that its fortunes appear to be heading south.
The story also sees one big reason why: Millennials aren’t interested in buying or eating the processed stuff, preferring instead natural cheeses that taste more distinctive even if they are pricier.
Chains such as Wendy’s, Cracker Barrel, and Panera Bread are either ditching American cheese—a champion melter—or at least offering alternatives. It’s “an ingredient we’re looking to less and less in our pantry,” says Panera exec Sara Burnett of American cheese. The story finds even more evidence in economic stats, including one that notes U.S. sales of processed cheese are on track to dip for the fourth consecutive year.
Prices for American cheese are down, too, and the number of specialty cheesemakers is surging.
A solid 40% of US households still buy Kraft Singles, but sales are flat, a company exec tells Bloomberg, whose story traces the cheese’s origins back to WWII.
Need an impassioned defense of the stuff? See Dave Holmes at Esquire.
“What is American cheese? I don’t know, and I don’t want to,” he writes. “It’s made of secret chemicals, yumminess compounds, and can-do spirit.” (Bloomberg is less romantic, ticking off ingredients such as sodium citrate, calcium phosphate, natamycin, and modified food starch.) “I appreciate your ambitious four-cheese blends,” Holmes tells foodies, “but if you’re going to make me a grilled cheese, save your blending time and unwrap me four slices of Kraft.”