It has long been a staple for Americans, but now it’s being edged out by healthier varieties. American cheese, praised for its low melting point, texture and mild taste and stigmatized as one of the symbols of the obesity epidemic (for good reason), is now in everyone's bad books. More companies are ditching it in favor of unprocessed alternatives. While it may seem like a product worth keeping in the menu, the change is really welcome.
Image Credit: Chelsea Kyle, Styling by Ali Nardi
For many a generation, it was a product associated with home sweet home, parties in the backyard, and everything American: the very name suggests it is a kind of food that embodies the spirit of activities which are so dear to an American heart. Remember your mother cooking sandwiches with that yellow, slightly sweet cheese you used to crave when you were young? It melts wonderfully, is convenient to use (it usually comes in the form of individually packed slices), and evokes memories of the past.
However endearing it may be, the recent shift towards its competitors is indicative of a change in the paradigm of attitude to nutrition. Many a headline are blaming millennials for killing the industries that used to be integral parts of American economy. Some are disappointed by the decline in the American cheese sector, others are supporting the move.
A gradual change is still a change
It is not only millennials, who are more concerned about what they ingest than previous generations, who affect the sales of American cheese manufacturers. Individual customers are an audience of utmost importance, but the recent changes that popular fast food facilities make echo the choices of the general population, which also contributes to the sales decline seen in the past years.
McDonalds now offers a slightly healthier option of cheese without artificial preservatives, Wendy’s here to offer you asiago, Panera Bread switched to a four-cheese combo, and A&W’s Canadian outlets banished processed American cheese in favor of real cheddar. All of them profited from it.
Of course, the scale of processed cheese abandonment is not enough to call it a drastic change, but it is indicative of something important that is happening to the people living on this side of the pond. Every generation is characterized by its own special features, and millennials appear to have introduced a new trait, and that is being focused on nutrition value, not taste.
A good sign
For those who grew up with the smell of grilled American cheese, the change in tastes may be difficult to swallow. But most adults realize that the abundance of preservatives and other unhealthy ingredients cannot benefit the body. Now that the obesity epidemic is all the rage, it is becoming more evident that some changes in the American diet should be made, and cheese is also part of this change.
There are so many cheese varieties available on the market that it is easy to find an alternative. They make take longer to melt, but the advantages are much more numerous. Natural cheeses are nutritious and delicious, and the fact that processed American cheese ceased to be the leader is a good sign.
Simply substituting one variety of cheese for another will not solve the problem of obesity, but it suggests that people want and are ready to fight obesity. The very term ‘American cheese’ technically means any cheese produced in the U.S., and it is time we realized that the country can produce something of better quality. Make cheese, not cheese products.
For those who are concerned about losing traditions and the American spirit that this processed cheese symbolized, it still should not be a problem: it is available on store shelves, so its admirers will not have to resort to some black market. But do we need to preserve this symbol – unhealthy, neon-yellow, tasting like a bunch of chemicals, yet so dear to many hearts? The jury is still out on this.
Millennials Kill Again. The Latest Victim? American Cheese – bloomberg.com
The Next Step on Our Food Journey: The Seven Classic Burgers – mcdonalds.com