American cheese may be making an even bigger splash at supermarkets and specialty shops nationwide. Artisanal American cheese making is spreading out into states like North Carolina and Maine, while the number of licensed artisan cheese producers in the U.S. is steadily increasing, according to Wall Street Journal. Could this be the sign of things to come for American cheese?
In a 2012 count by Jeffrey Roberts, author of “The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese,” there were 825 licensed producers of artisan cheeses in the U.S., up from 410 in 2006. In Maine, there were at least 75 artisanal cheese makers in 2013, up from 13 in 2000.
Retailers like Whole Foods, Kroger, and Wegmans have been promoting this apparent trend as well. Ten years ago, only 5% of cheeses at Wegmans were American, says Cathy Gaffney, director of specialty cheese and deli. Now, 40% to 50% of the 100 to 300 cheeses it stocks are American and its deli-cheese department sales have grown threefold in 10 years.
For example, Whole Foods is promoting American-made cheese with posters featuring Uncle Sam (with a cheese face) saying “I WANT YOU to Enjoy Our American Artisan Cheeses!” Another sign features Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting with a chunk of cheese on the farmer’s pitchfork.
And if that wasn’t convincing enough that American cheese is making waves through the market, 82 American cheeses won prizes at the World Cheese Awards, run by UK’S Guild of Fine Food, up from 44 in 2004. Even companies like Kraft is saying it “can get inspiration” from American artisanal cheeses and is constantly innovating its portfolio around America’s changing palette.
Will this trend continue long into the future?