“Wisconsin has a great heritage and legacy for cheese, the American consumer likes cheese. Right now we’re eating cheese as a snack food, we’re eating it as an ingredient in other dishes, we’re eating it as a base dish, and we like variety. So specialty cheese should be a great opportunity,” said Portalatin.
Ken Monteleone who owns Fromagination, a specialty cheese shop on the capitol square in Madison, has also seen a shift in not only what consumers want but also what Wisconsin cheesemakers are crafting to meet those needs.
“We’re not only a cheddar state. That we also make great alpine –style cheeses, we do some wonderful Blues, a lot of people in Wisconsin are experimenting with in the soft-ripened cheeses, so the portfolio continues to expand.”
And since Wisconsin cheesemakers craft 45 percent of all specialty cheese made in the U.S., the state is primed to help elevate ordinary dishes to make them extraordinary!
David Portalatin, Vice President Food Industry Advisor NPD Group – Chicago, said “Most cheese is consumed as an ingredient to another dish, so specialty cheese is a great way to elevate what might be just sort of a regular ordinary thing that we’re accustomed to eating, but making it a little special.”
And one surprising trend is that younger generations are the fastest growing segment of the population when it comes to trying specialty cheeses.
“We find that younger consumers have grown up surrounded by a great deal of diversity. So they have grown up with an awareness of a lot of different cuisines from around the world, and they’re adventurous eaters, and they’re willing to experiment and try new things, so I think that’s where a lot of the experimentation comes from.”
Monteleone says that over the past ten years that he’s owned his shop, he’s noticed a definite shift in people wanting to try new and different cheeses.