American cheese has long been seen as a household staple, much like hamburgers, hot dogs, peanut butter and white bread. But it seems the sliced product responsible for making many ooey, gooey sandwiches may have met its match.
According to a new Bloomberg report, American cheese consumption is down. Way down. And millennials are to blame.
Of course, it is a little unfair to blame millennials and millennials alone. Many fast-food chains — like Wendy’s, A&W and Panera Bread — are now offering other types of cheese, like Gouda, fontina, Asiago and real cheddar. This shift has had a huge impact on cheese sales: Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which sells the 500-pound barrels of cheddar used to make American cheese, is currently offering a record discount on 40-pound blocks of cheese.
Sara Burnett, Panera Bread’s director of wellness and food policy, told Bloomberg American cheese is “an ingredient we’re looking to less and less in our pantry.”
Honestly, we are totally not surprised. Of course, this could be due to one writer’s bias — and the fact she had to eat mustard and American cheese sandwiches as a child — but we also think the change has a lot to do with the changing cheese industry.
Most Americans are demanding healthier choices, and American cheese — a highly processed cheese that is riddled with preservatives — doesn’t really fit the bill.
So what are makers of the orange-ish product to do? Well, companies like Kraft are trying to reinvent themselves and promote the other benefits of their product. For instance, “the melt.”
“Honestly, you can’t get that in a natural cheese,” Peter Cotter, general manager of cheese and dairy for Kraft Heinz Co., told Bloomberg. “It’s a very unique product. The creamy smooth texture and melt of the cheese. The natural cheeses, they just don’t melt that way,” which is true. But Kraft and other purveyors of American cheese are certainly facing an uphill battle.