Fresh Deli Trends:<br />Kosher Cheeses Carving Impressive Gains

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Fresh Deli Trends:<br />Kosher Cheeses Carving Impressive Gains

Despite the fact that kosher cheeses claim only a small portion of overall category sales, a growing batch of Wisconsin cheesemakers are embracing the rigorous production standards for an increasing number of products.

“Consumers of kosher foods have high expectations for these products, and the food industry has started to acknowledge that,” explained Mark Rosen, owner of Sugar River Cheese, a Deerfield, Ill.-based company specializing in kosher Wisconsin cheeses. “As consumers continue to demand a broader range of specialty kosher products, the selection will become more diverse.”

For a cheese to be labeled “kosher,” a rabbi must be on the premises to ensure that non-kosher ingredients or utensils are barred from the cheesemaking process. In addition, the rennet used must be microbial or vegetarian, instead of the traditional animal-based product.

The trend is part of a growing movement that’s fanned the flames of kosher foods in the United States to the tune of $12.5 billion in 2008, an increase of 64 percent since 2003 and nearly 7 percent in each subsequent year between 2004 and 2008, according to Chicago-based global research firm Mintel. In fact, reliable sources at the Madison-based Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) report that kosher held the top individual claim on a number of new cheese products released in 2008, spurred on in part by both observant and non-observant consumers’ chief reasons for purchasing kosher foods: high quality, followed by general healthfulness and food safety. (Click here to read a related feature about Brooklyn-based grocer Pomegranate’s dynamic presence at the 2010 Kosher Restaurant & Wine Experience, penned by my colleague, Managing Editor Bridget Goldschmidt, who attended the Feb. 1 event.)

“In a culture of global food sourcing, people recognize the value of purchasing kosher,” said Rosen. “The lack of compromise in regard to quality control and practices that have been in place for thousands of years help distinguish kosher foods as the highest quality.”

The following companies offer kosher Wisconsin cheeses:

• All-Star, Ltd.
Arthur Schuman Inc.
Baker Cheese Factory, Inc.
BelGioioso Cheese, Inc.
Cedar Grove Cheese
Decatur Dairy, Inc.
Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery
Grande Cheese Co.
Harmony Specialty Dairy Foods, LLC
Henning Cheese, Inc.
Lactalis Deli, Inc.
Maple Leaf Cheese Cooperative
Meister Cheese Co.
Mill Creek Cheese Factory
Mullins Cheese, Inc.
Nasonville Dairy, Inc.
Old Fashioned Foods, Inc.
Organic Farm Marketing, LLC
Organic Valley
Saputo Cheese USA Inc.
Sartori Food Corporation
Schreiber Foods, Inc.
Specialty Cheese Co., Inc.
Sugar River Cheese Co
Thiel Cheese & Ingredients, LLC
U.S. Specialty Cheese, Inc.
Welcome Dairy, Inc.
Widmer’s Cheese Cellars, Inc.
Winona Foods, Inc.
Wisconsin Cheese Group

For more information about Wisconsin cheese, visit