How Philadelphia cream cheese conquered the world (2024)

When it comes to baking, everyone has an opinion on the top brand of butter (President? Kerrygold? Finland?) or flour (King Arthur? Gold Medal? Bob's Red Mill?). But there's only one cream cheese, and that's the silver brick-shaped wrapper with bright blue lettering: Philadelphia.

"I only believe in Philadelphia cream cheese," he wrote.BA's Claire Saffitz immediately after I emailed her. "It's simply the best and nothing else tastes right."

"I don't think there's anything like it," says Priscilla Scaff-Mariani, sous executive pastry chef atGabriel Kreutherin New York about its taste and texture. "Even when I was in culinary school, I was like, 'Oh, do we need cream cheese?' It's Philadelphia. It wasn't even a second thought."

The dominance of Philadelphia cream cheese is not a happy coincidence. Its cult popularity is likely the result of equal parts smart marketing and good timing.

The brand dates back to the late 1800s, when Pennsylvania dairy became known for its smooth, creamy whole-milk cheeses. New York Dairies, on the other hand, made a version with skim milk that was much chalkier. A scheming New Yorker named William Lawrence began selling his own cream cheese (which was actually made from skim milk mixed with a little lard) under the label "Philadelphia" in hopes that the Pennsylvania Union would attract customers. He even trademarked the words "Philadelphia" and "Pennsylvania" in association with cheese products. It worked - and it sold. When the company merged with Kraft Foods in 1928 and developed a pasteurized version of the product, Philadelphia cream cheese became a household name.

Philadelphia cream cheese was the first product of its kind—a durable, rich, flavorful, spreadable soft cheese—and "one of the first branded products in America," says Stella Parks, author of the nostalgic cookbook.BraveTart. "Philadelphia has been in the cream cheese business so long that it has become synonymous with cream cheese."

Philadelphia's second stroke of genius was marketing to home bakers. In the 1900s, recipes began to be distributed through magazines, newspapers and advertisem*nts. In 1937, Philadelphia ran advertisem*nts containing a recipe for "Philadelphia Pie", a vanilla-flavored candy that called for five and a half packets of Philadelphia cream cheese in the dough. Women's magazines framed Philadelphia cream cheese as an unusual ingredient for entertainment. In an April 1909 article in thePerry's Daily Boss, cookbook author Emma Telford praises the benefits of using cream cheese in cheesecake: "There used to be a laborious process of separating the curds and whey, but today's housewife eliminates this by using a Neufchâtel or cream cheese as a base ". those who followed asked for Philadelphia cream cheese bricks to bake, but also savory sauces, pâtés and fillings.

"People liked the recognizable brand names," says Parks. “They felt good about it, regardless of the quality.” Philadelphia became the most trusted cream cheese even as others entered the market. According to a spokeswoman, the company currently holds a 68% market share in the US alone.

How Philadelphia cream cheese conquered the world (2024)


Why is Philadelphia Cream Cheese so successful? ›

Scaff-Mariani points to the high silkiness and low moisture content of Philadelphia relative to other brands. “It mimics the consistency of butter in a lot of ways,” she says. In addition to using it for cheesecakes, she has also tried it in macaron fillings and in cookies.

What is the story with Philadelphia Cream Cheese? ›

Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented in New York in 1872, according to the Kraft Heinz Co., and got its name in 1880 as part of a marketing strategy to associate the product with the high-quality food and dairy farming for which the Philadelphia area was known at the time.

What is the slogan for Philadelphia Cream Cheese? ›

Philadelphia cream cheese made a new commercial actually in October 2021, but that ad is still so effective that it has been used along 2022 as well. “You Don't Just Taste It. You Feel It” is the tagline, the spot starts in a quiet silence, in order to let us listen the sound of the cream cheese spread on bread.

How was cream cheese discovered? ›

Cream cheese was invented in 1872 by American dairyman William Lawrence of Chester, New York, who accidentally stumbled on a method of producing cream cheese while trying to reproduce a French cheese called Neufchâtel.

How did cheese grow so big in popularity? ›

Cheese's increasing popularity among Americans owes a lot to the rise of pizza. Mozzarella went from being a rather obscure Italian cheese to the most popular variety of cheese in the country.

Why is cream cheese in high demand? ›

Cream cheese has become the latest casualty of pandemic-related supply snags, with food manufacturers to bagel shops reporting shortages of the ingredient. From bagels to cheesecakes, the uses for cream cheese spread wide, and since it's a perishable product, buyers can't stock up.

What is a fun fact about Philadelphia cream cheese? ›

It turns out that Philadelphia Cream Cheese was actually created in New York in 1871 by a man called William Lawrence. According to the Philadelphia website, Lawrence invented cream cheese to bring "a fresher, richer taste experience to the cheese market."

What is the history of cream cheese? ›

Around 1873 William A. Lawrence, a dairyman in Chester, New York, was the first to mass-produce an unripened fresh cheese known generically as cream cheese. In 1872, he began manufacturing Neufchâtel cheese. By adding cream to the process, he developed a richer cheese that he called “cream cheese”.

Why is there a cream cheese crisis? ›

For Kraft, it was a smart way to grab goodwill in the midst of a crisis. Then Bloomberg dropped this bombshell: The shortage was caused by cyber attackers who compromised the distribution centers of Schreiber Foods in Wisconsin, a major manufacturer of cream cheese—though not of the Philadelphia brand.

What is Philadelphia famous for? ›

Philadelphia holds the honor of being one of America's most preeminent historical cities. It is here that the Declaration of Independence was signed and the Constitution was written. The city has a history that goes back to 1682 when William Penn first stepped off a boat on the Delaware River.

How did cream cheese get its name? ›

In 1872 William Lawrence, a dairyman from Chester, New York, attempted to make Neufchâtel, a tangy, crumblier cheese product that was popular in Europe at the time. Instead he accidentally added an excessive amount of cream and created a richer, more spreadable cheese, which would eventually be called "cream cheese".

Is Philadelphia cream cheese ethical? ›

Philadelphia is made with fresh milk from farms where the welfare of animals is a priority. They firmly believe giving dairy cows a better quality of life, with access to pasture grazing and higher welfare conditions, produces better quality milk – and tastier cream cheese for its iconic brand.

Is cream cheese an American thing? ›

Cream cheese's history is unexpectedly the epitome of an American tale. But cream cheese was invented by a goy from upstate New York, not Jews from the old country. And in many ways, cream cheese's history is unexpectedly the epitome of an American tale.

Who made cream cheese first? ›

The dairy product we call cream cheese was invented around 1875 by dairy farmer William Lawrence of Chester, New York. He purchased an operating Neufchâtel factory in the area and began experimenting as one of his major clients, a prestigious New York City grocery store, was asking for a richer cheese spread.

Why is cream cheese important? ›

Cream cheese is a great source of vitamin A, low in lactose, and a good source of antioxidants. It may also have probiotic effects.

Why does the US government own so much cheese? ›

In 1949, the Agricultural Act allowed a government agency to buy up dairy products to stabilize prices. Unlike corn or wheat, however, milk needed to be converted into more shelf-stable forms, specifically butter, dehydrated skim milk powder, and cheese.

What is the number one selling cheese in the world? ›

Spinneyfields Mozzarella… leading the way with the world's favourite cheese.

Why is the government hoarding cheese? ›

Amid trade disputes and declining dairy consumption nationally, the American government has been subsidizing and stockpiling America's surplus cheese. According to the USDA, American milk consumption has dropped from 275 pounds per capita in 1975 to 149 pounds per capita in 2017.

Who is the biggest consumer of cheese? ›

The International Dairy Federation estimates that France holds the title for the most cheese consumed in a year per capita, but Italy boasts a close second.

What state eats the most cream cheese? ›

Cream cheese is the second most popular cheese in the U.S., enjoyed by 6 states.
Each State's Favorite Cheese.
StateFavorite Cheese
New HampshireBrie
New JerseyMozzarella
New MexicoCream Cheese
New YorkMozzarella
46 more rows
Aug 10, 2022

How big is the cream cheese industry? ›

The Cream Cheese Market is valued at USD 7.40 Billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 10.94 Billion by 2028.

What are 5 interesting facts about Philadelphia? ›

  • #1 The Mural Capital of the World.
  • #2 Philadelphia has the Oldest Inhabited Road in America.
  • #3 Philadelphia is a City of Firsts.
  • #4 It's Also a City of Champions.
  • #5 The Eagles Killed the Wing Bowl.
  • #6. Visit the Mutter Museum to See Einstein's Brain.
  • #7 Betsy Ross… Fraud?
  • #8 Philadelphia Loves Pretzels.
Oct 14, 2022

Why is it called Philadelphia? ›

"Philadelphia" is a combination of two Greek words: love (phileo) and brother (adelphos). The city was named by its founder, William Penn, who envisioned a city of religious tolerance where no one would be persecuted.

Is Philly cream cheese healthy? ›

Since it is sourced from milk, cream cheese is a concentrated source of the nutrients naturally found in milk, including calcium. Cream Cheese also contains a large amount of other essential nutrients such as phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and vitamin A. It is a dense source of high quality protein.

What are some unique facts about cream cheese? ›

There are plenty of rumors that cream cheese was invented by accident in the late 1880s, but early types of cream cheese are mentioned in England as early as 1583 and in France as early as 1651. Recipes for cream cheese were first recorded soon after 1754 by the British.

Which came first bagel or cream cheese? ›

Cream cheese was invented in the U.S. during the late 1800s and bagels come from Jewish baking traditions in Poland.

Why is America out of cream cheese? ›

Cyber Attack. In October 2021, a cyberattack temporarily shut down operations at Schreiber Foods Inc., the second largest producer of American cream cheese. Although the company was only offline for a few days, the attack has garnered a huge amount of media coverage (and blame) as the cause of the cream cheese shortage ...

Why is NYC running out of cream cheese? ›

Probably due to the supply chain.

An impending cream cheese shortage has become a major concern amongst bagel shops in New York City, due to supply chain issues. As a quintessential item to schmear on bagels, the cream cheese supply is now a looming issue for many in NYC.

What do New Yorkers call cream cheese? ›

Schmear, a word borrowed from Yiddish, refers to anything spreadable — especially cream cheese.

Why is there a shortage of dairy cream? ›

In a recent June report, Ehmke said supply problem are the result of US dairy farmers and butter processors struggling to increase production due to rising costs of feed, energy, heifers and even labor.

Why is Philadelphia so important to American history? ›

The country's first World Heritage City, Philadelphia is also the birthplace of the United States, where our Founding Fathers met, discussed, debated and formed a new country. Lucky for 21st-century visitors, so much of Philadelphia's history has been preserved.

What made Philadelphia so unique? ›

Philadelphia is world-famous for our delicious cheesesteaks. The Italian Market is the world's OLDEST and largest outdoor market, and has not changed in 100 years. Philadelphia is world famous for our hoagies, cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Goldenberg Peanut Chews, water ice, and soft pretzels.

Why cream cheese is not cheese? ›

So What Is Cream Cheese? Despite not having a particularly savory reputation like Colby, Swiss or Gouda, cream cheese is cheese. It's a fresh cheese, which is defined by the FDA as containing at least 33% fat with a moisture content of 55% or less.

What is cream cheese called in England? ›

In the UK the fat content of cream cheese can theoretically be as high as 55% which may be why the UK tends to opt for the term "soft white cheese", but most people still think of this as cream cheese and the higher fat content cream cheese tends to be flavoured with garlic and herbs.

Why is cream cheese yellow? ›

If your cheese has turned yellow or you notice patches of discoloration– blue or green mold formation– then it has already gone bad. Dry or slimy texture. Cream cheese should be smooth or creamy. If your cheese feels dry, grainy, chalky or has a slimy texture, then it is already spoiled.

Is Philadelphia cream cheese vegan? ›

Food giant Kraft Heinz has finally launched a vegan version of its Philadelphia cream cheese in the US. The highly-anticipated product debuted at select retailers in the southeast, with more flavours planned for a national rollout in the summer.

Is Philadelphia cream cheese natural? ›

Creamy & delicious. Made with fresh milk & real cream. Contains no artificial preservatives flavors or dyes.

Is Philadelphia cream cheese cows milk? ›

Philadelphia Cream Cheese is a soft cheese made from pasteurized cows milk. It has a wonderfully smooth and creamy texture that makes it perfect for both sweet and savoury cooking. Use Philadelphia Cream Cheese in cakes, frosting or sauces.

What replaces cream cheese in USA? ›

Cream Cheese Substitutes:
  • Sour Cream. Sour cream replicates cream cheese's taste but isn't quite as caloric, making it a good choice for a lower-calorie substitute. ...
  • Greek Yogurt. ...
  • Neufchatel. ...
  • Mascarpone. ...
  • Silken Tofu. ...
  • Cottage Cheese. ...
  • Hummus. ...
  • Quark.
Feb 1, 2022

What do Americans call cream cheese? ›

Philadelphia is a brand by Kraft which makes cream cheese. There are other brands, so it is just known as cream cheese. The stuff in the blocks is just the same as tubs. Save.

What is cream cheese called in France? ›

It took me a moment to figure out how I knew the name, until I realized that they were talking about fromage à tartiner, otherwise known as cream cheese.

What is the oldest cheese brand? ›

Company. Marin French Cheese Co. has a rich history that we are proud to share. Our company was founded in 1865, which makes us the oldest cheese company in the United States.

Who brought cheese to America? ›

Cheese has been produced in America since early in the 17th century when English Puritan dairy farmers brought their knowledge of dairy farming and cheesemaking with them from the Old World to the New English colonies.

Who ate the first cheese? ›

Early archeological evidence of Egyptian cheese has been found in Egyptian tomb murals, dating to about 2000 BCE. A 2018 scientific paper stated that the world's oldest cheese, dating to approximately 1200 BCE (3200 years before present), was found in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Why is Philadelphia cream cheese so successful? ›

Scaff-Mariani points to the high silkiness and low moisture content of Philadelphia relative to other brands. “It mimics the consistency of butter in a lot of ways,” she says. In addition to using it for cheesecakes, she has also tried it in macaron fillings and in cookies.

Why is Philadelphia known for cream cheese? ›

Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented in New York in 1872, according to the Kraft Heinz Co., and got its name in 1880 as part of a marketing strategy to associate the product with the high-quality food and dairy farming for which the Philadelphia area was known at the time.

Why is cheese important in history? ›

The production of cheese predates recorded history and was most likely discovered by accident during the transport of fresh milk in the organs of ruminants such as sheep, goats, cows, and buffalo. In the millennia before refrigeration, cheese became a way to preserve milk.

What makes cream cheese so good? ›

Cream cheese is a soft, neutral-tasting cheese made from cow's milk and cream. Its subtle sweetness, mild tanginess, and silky smooth texture make it extremely versatile: Spread it on a bagel, mix it into cookie dough or cake batter, or use it as a base for your next creamy frosting.

What is Philadelphia cheese known for? ›

Made with milk and real cream, Philadelphia Original's distinct fresh and creamy taste makes it a delicious soft cheese for the whole family to enjoy. Philadelphia is fantastically versatile, whether you are using it to bake an indulgent cheesecake or spreading it on a classic bagel topped with Smoked Salmon.

Why is the cheese market so high? ›

These prices are due to heightened costs of production for dairy farmers. The costs of cattle, animal feed, and farm labor have all risen in the last year (via CoBank).

What are some important facts about Philadelphia? ›

It is home to the nation's first university (University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1749), first hospital (Philadelphia Hospital, co-founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751), first daily newspaper (Philadelphia Packet and Daily Advertiser, founded in 1784), and first zoo (Philadelphia Zoo, founded in 1874).

Is cream cheese healthier than butter? ›

May Help Reduce Fat in Diet

For some people, cream cheese provides a benefit because it is lower in fat and calories than butter.

Can cream cheese be eaten raw? ›

Despite the growing popularity of raw cheeses and milks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns against consuming these products.

What is America's favorite cheese? ›

Data from a YouGov poll of over 8,000 US adults finds that America's favorite cheese is a classic: cheddar. About one in five (19%) say this is their top pick, while 13% say their favorite is American cheese. In third place is mozzarella, with 9%, followed by Swiss (8%).

Is Philadelphia cream cheese a probiotic? ›

May have probiotic effects

Cream cheese is made using a starter culture from lactic acid bacteria. Some of these strains of bacteria are probiotics, which are friendly bacteria that offer health benefits ( 12 ).

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