American cheese will never die. It has too many preservatives.
But it’s melting away.
One by one, America’s food outlets are abandoning the century-old American staple. In many cases, they’re replacing it with fancier cheeses.
Wendy’s is offering asiago. A&W’s Canada locations switched to real cheddar. McDonald’s is selling the Big Mac’s soft, orange square of American cheese with a version that doesn’t contain artificial preservatives. Panera Bread ditched its old-fashioned grilled cheese made with American and replaced it with a four-cheese combo of fontina, cheddar, monteau and smoked gouda. The result: higher sales.
American cheese is “an ingredient we’re looking to less and less in our pantry,” said Sara Burnett, the chain’s director of wellness and food policy.
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.
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.”