It’s 2019: Are you itching for a makeover? Yearning to reinvent yourself? In that case, perhaps your new style icon must be cottage cheese. To see what we mean, browse the website of Muuna, a lately launched cottage cheese brand. Between splashes of brilliant colour and snapshots of laughing millennials, you’ll find a video of a younger lady in pink workout garb. As blurry background figures pedal stationary bikes, she pops a spoonful of cottage cheese into her mouth. Her face transforms: Skepticism provides approach to stunned satisfaction. The tagline is “Bye Bye, Boring.” It’s labeled gluten-free. There’s even a limited version pumpkin spice taste.
“We’re here to disrupt cottage cheese,” says Gerard Meyer, Muuna’s CEO. Indeed, the vibrant world Muuna depicts, by which lovely individuals gather to giggle around cottage cheese cups, appears a bit like an alien dimension—particularly for those of us who grew up shunning the snack. “We’re doing something that’s never been done in cottage cheese,” Meyer provides. “How revolutionary, to actually show people enjoying it?”
Country Shacks and Jell-O Salads
At its essence, cottage cheese is old style. Fairly actually: It dates again eons. Some of the earliest cheeses ever made have been doubtless comparable. That’s as a result of the traditional recipe is straightforward. Recent milk is left to naturally separate, a fatty layer of cream floating to the prime. The cream is skimmed off and the remaining lowfat milk is left to ferment, or “clabber,” its native micro organism producing acids that cause it to curdle. The curd is minimize, gently heated, and combined. Whey is removed and the curds are rinsed in cold water, serving to them agency up earlier than they’re drained. Until this point, the course of is fairly just like making a rustic wheel of cheese—but as an alternative of being shaped and pressed, the mass of curds is crumbled and combined, or “dressed,” with cream.
“It’s a farmhouse style,” says Sue Conley, co-founder of California-based Cowgirl Creamery. “In the early days, family farms would skim off the cream to make butter, and it was a way for them to use the nonfat milk by making a simple cheese.” Several variations harken again to the Previous World, however the first stateside reference to “cottage” cheese dates to an 1831 article titled “Country Lodgings” in Godey’s Woman’s E-book magazine. Visiting rural houses, author Miss Leslie critiqued “not inviting” spreads observed throughout teatime: “paltry cakes,” “dried beef,” and “cottage cheese.” Its identify is assumed to reference its origin: cottages in the countryside.
The provincial cheese stayed out of the highlight until the wartime years of the 20th century, when consuming the creamy curds went from rural behavior to patriotic obligation. During World Conflict I food shortages, cottage cheese was promoted as a protein source. “Eat more cottage cheese; you’ll need less meat,” urged a wartime USDA poster. The sentiment returned during the second World Warfare, throughout which gross sales of the cheese elevated five-fold.
A post-war explosion in population—and dairy demand—deepened the need for a reliable protein supply that was low cost to supply, and business giants responded accordingly. To keep away from the tediously sluggish clabbering process, they started taking shortcuts, adding rennet to coagulate milk quicker, and heating the curds to a better temperature. This rendered them harder, while eliminating the complicated flavors created during sluggish fermentation. Nonetheless, the chewy cheese turned a household staple, central to the iconic Jell-O salad: a mix of the namesake gelatin (often lime), cottage cheese, mayonnaise, and canned pineapple shaped in a Bundt pan.
Sans the taste and texture that when made it so delicious, cottage cheese had one lingering point of attraction: Since the curds have been traditionally made with lowfat or nonfat milk, the cheese’s fats content could possibly be easily modified by altering the dressing. Fatty cream historically used to decorate curds might be swapped out for milk thickened with cornstarch and, later, gums and stabilizers. And so cottage cheese turned a weight–loss food. The lumpy white substance alongside a lean hamburger patty, a tragic lettuce leaf, a pale tomato, and slimy canned peaches: This was a basic 1970s weight loss plan plate. Some even went so far as to comply with the “cottage cheese diet,” a fad regime mandating cottage cheese—yes, solely cottage cheese—for 3 meals a day.
Yet after peaking at greater than five pounds per capita in 1972, annual consumption of cottage cheese plummeted to about two–and–a–half–kilos in 1996, with a slight decline annually since. So what occurred? The brief answer, says Meyer, is nothing. “The category has been comatose; it’s been frozen in time for 40 years.” The cheese remained a staple aspect hustle for giant dairy corporations, made with surplus milk and bought in giant tubs. However as lowfat fads pale, no one gave thought to a rebrand—cottage cheese was relegated to Technicolor reminiscence, eternally linked with Jell-O and Bundt pans in our collective conscience.
To know the scale of stagnancy, simply take a look at a comparable product that embarked on a starkly totally different trajectory. Back in the 1970s, yogurt was marketed in an analogous option to cottage cheese: giant tubs, plain flavor, bland branding. However since then, new yogurt brands have popped up, introducing improvements like single-serve packaging, taste blends, and fruit on the backside.
Yogurt makers started offering convenience and selection. All members of the family might eat totally different flavors, and youngsters might carry it in a lunchbox. “As a kid, you couldn’t have paid me to eat plain yogurt,” Meyer says. “But if you put blueberries, sugar, and all that in it, I ate it.” Immediately 90 % of yogurt is bought in single-serve measurement, he provides; against this, 90 % of cottage cheese is nonetheless bought in huge tubs.
Yogurt corporations additionally targeted on vitamin, but in contrast to cottage cheese makers, they advanced their message in tandem with prevailing health developments. As lowfat eating regimen fads misplaced traction and a protein craze emerged, yogurt corporations began focusing on thicker, protein-rich blends. As probiotics got here into the highlight, yogurt packaging started boasting billions of bacteria. And it labored. Forty years in the past the yogurt enterprise was lower than half the measurement of cottage cheese’s, in accordance with Meyer—now it’s eight occasions greater.
But cottage cheese can have protein and probiotics, too. In reality, it often has more protein than yogurt. It also tends to have less sugar. “Here’s this high-protein, nutrient-dense superfood that really isn’t growing from a category standpoint. Why is that?” says Jesse Merrill, co-founder and CEO of grass-fed cottage cheese firm Good Culture. After spearheading advertising campaigns for successful brands like Trustworthy Tea, Merrill was trying to launch a brand new business; he perused grocery retailer aisles in quest of an concept. “It became clear there had been little to no innovation in cottage cheese,” he says. “But why can’t you eat cottage cheese in a single-serve cup? Why can’t you put fruit on the bottom? I saw a massive opportunity to put a cottage cheese out there that was more relevant to today’s shopper.” Launched in 2015, Good Culture now stocks grocery cabinets with containers of cottage cheese that look a lot like yogurt, they doubtless have dairy aisle consumers doing double-takes.
A container of Muuna appears comparable, and for the actual similar purpose. “Our consumer, the average cottage cheese consumer, is the heavy yogurt consumer,” Meyer says. Market analysis signifies that the most frequent cottage cheese shoppers are likely to skew older, but those that dabble in cottage cheese a few times per yr look equivalent to average yogurt shoppers: female, school educated, and slightly youthful. “Fifty percent of people who buy yogurt buy cottage cheese,” Meyer provides. “They just don’t buy it very often. We want them to see that it’s better than yogurt, and we want them to buy it more often.”
The aim of both corporations is to align cottage cheese with yogurt’s present tendencies. Their versions are thick and creamy—Meyer calls Muuna the “Greek yogurt of cottage cheese,” while Merrill boasts which you can maintain a cup of Good Tradition the wrong way up and nothing drips out. (“That’s our quality test,” he says.) Both merchandise include probiotics and claim proprietary production practices that elevate protein content material, and both have nailed a advertising technique on par with the occasions—a clear label and rejection of stabilizers, gums, and other unpronounceable components.
“Our product is 100 percent on-trend,” Merrill says. “Those consumers—millennials, younger Gen Xers—we’re marketing in a way that’s relevant to them, through really strong branding, through fun marketing.” Social media influencer campaigns, sampling at occasions, a mighty PR campaign: This is what disruption seems to be like.
Back to the Cottage
But in terms of popularizing cottage cheese, it’s not all about lovely individuals and moveable packaging. Makers know that taste matters, too. And in cottage cheese, taste requires endurance.
“It’s not so easy to make well,” says Conley, citing the two-day course of her staff makes use of to make Clabbered Cottage Cheese at Cowgirl Creamery. They do it the old style means. The cream is skimmed off and the milk cultures for about 14 hours. Curds are heated slowly over an hour whereas being stirred, and as an alternative of artificially thickened milk, Cowgirl’s dressing is constructed from a mixture of cultured milk and cream.
Initially conceived in the late ’90s when the creamery was simply beginning up, the cheese required such a tedious production cycle that only a couple of hundred containers might be made per week. “It became a cult cheese,” Conley says. After taking a hiatus for several years, Cowgirl upped manufacturing capacity and introduced it back in 2018—however don’t anticipate fancy fruit or moveable tubs. It’s doubtless just like what you’d have present in those cottages of yore: full fats, complicated flavor, and probiotics—“without have to brag about it,” Conley says, chuckling.
In Indiana, Merchants Level Creamery makes cottage cheese with a comparable philosophy. Utilizing just two strains of bacteria and no rennet, cheesemaker Jonathan Love lets the milk acidify for 12 to 15 hours earlier than hand-skimming it. The cream he skims off, which is additionally absolutely cultured, becomes the dressing he’ll later combine back in. “It’s not just curds sitting in milk,” he says. “With the acidified dressing, it tastes more like cheese. It doesn’t taste like the cottage cheese people grew up eating.”
Harkening again to these older methods additionally impacts texture. Letting milk curdle very slowly by way of culturing means curds are softer. “It has a completely different mouthfeel, like a cross between eating curds and milk,” Love says. “The texture people think is gross, where it’s like eating cheese gummies—that’s gone.”
So is cottage cheese again? There are indicators it could be. Wealthy Martin, CEO of Green Valley Creamery in Sebastopol, California, says that the firm’s determination to launch a cottage cheese in 2018 was spurred by demand. The truth is, cottage cheese was the most requested product amongst clients of the lactose-free dairy company.
Martin says it’s all about style. He compares it to the Brussels sprouts he ate as a child rising up in the 1970s. Back then, he says, “cottage cheese and Brussels sprouts were two things that my mom ate that I thought were just terrible. They didn’t taste great and there were limited uses. The Brussels sprouts on my plate were all boiled—or steamed, if I got lucky.” At present though, Martin loves Brussels sprouts; roasted, paired with pancetta, sprinkled with cheese. “Now Brussels sprouts taste great because of the way they’re prepared, and I think cottage cheese is the same.”
Perhaps it’s the sluggish culturing, the acidified cream, or the boosted fats content material. Perhaps it’s the clear label, flavored mix-ins, or the comfort. One factor is for positive, though, Martin says: “Cottage cheese tastes better than ever.”
Styled by Chantal Lambeth.
Photographed by Nina Gallant.