U.S. Dairy Products > Cheese > Cheese Categories
Custom & Convenience Cheese Products
- Pre-cut Cheese
- Shredded Cheese
- Grated Cheese
- Cheese Sauce
- Portion Packaged Cheese
U.S. cheese appetizers are gaining popularity around the world. They offer foodservice operators cost savings in terms of labor and waste reduction, as well as convenience and consistency. U.S. manufacturers offer a variety of batters and breadings, as well as many different shapes (sticks, balls, triangles, and custom shapes). Cheese appetizers also include a range of vegetable, pasta and dough shells filled with U.S. cheese. Jalapeño peppers filled with U.S. cream cheese, for example, are a popular appetizer. Cheese appetizers are generally marketed as frozen products. They can be prepared in a variety of ways: frying, cooked in convection or microwave ovens.
Cutting, slicing, shredding, packaging or other processing of cheese is performed after the manufacturing process and any aging is completed. Convenience-forms of both natural and process cheeses are available. Cheese sauces are aseptically processed, viscous liquids that are canned. Typically, ingredients used are natural cheeses, skim milk, whey, salt, stabilizers, emulsifiers and seasonings. Viscosity of the sauces can vary but is often in the 30-60,000 cps range at 21 to 27°C (70 to 81°F).
Key Benefits in Foodservice and Food Processing
Reduce on-site labor costs. Ensure greater consistency of finished products. Increase food processors' manufacturing efficiencies. Sauces are pumpable and provide good portion control. Extended shelf life, no need for refrigeration for cheese sauces.
These cheeses are selected primarily to reduce on-site labor and to ensure a greater consistency of finished product. Convenience cheeses are available for use with nearly every cheese application, from sandwiches and appetizers to meals, entrées and snacks. Cheese sauces are convenient as ready-to-use dips as well as for omelets, pasta, dressings, sauces and soups.
U.S. cheese suppliers have recently developed technologies that enable them to offer cheese concentrates. These can be used in liquid as well as dry applications. Added at low levels, cheese concentrates reinforce the flavor of sauces and can be used as an ingredient in pasteurized process cheese products.
Cheese Sauces and Dressings
The popularity of cheese sauces derived from cheddar and other types of cheeses results from their convenience. Their main use are omelets, nachos, pasta, side dishes, salad dressings, dips and toppings. They are increasingly used as fillings in pocket sandwiches, entrées, battered and breaded foods.
Cheese sauces are formulated to have specific and desirable characteristics in terms of flavor, consistency, flow and behavior during cooking. U.S. manufacturers can design cheese sauces to meet very specific melting point requirements. Cheese sauces are often thermally processed so they are shelf-stable until opened. Many varieties are also available in powder form. Most cheese sauces are formulated to be freeze-thaw stable and to be reheated in a microwave as well as convection ovens.
U.S. cheeses are also a key flavoring agent in spoonable, pourable dressings and in powdered dressing mixes. Cheddar, parmesan, blue, Romano, cream and ricotta cheeses are often used in the manufacture of ready-to-use dressings.
Dips are used with salty snacks, vegetables, meats and fruits. In the manufacture of premium dips, the major ingredients are sour cream, skim milk and stabilizers. U.S. cheeses are added to achieve desirable flavor profile as well as for texture.
Shreds and Cubes
Using pre-cut cheeses helps reduce waste and labor costs during preparation and clean-up. U.S. manufacturers can supply customers with a very wide variety of sizes and shapes. The following are examples of pre-cut items available. For more options, please contact your U.S. cheese supplier.
Cubes, square pieces and rectangular sticks These pieces are generally 1.5 to 2 cm thick and are cut to specified, consistent lengths. Mini cubes (dice-shaped shreds) are also available.
Standard shreds These shreds are approximately 0.2 to 0.3 cm around, with a length between 1.5 and 3 cm. These are also often referred to as bevel shreds.
Fine shreds These shreds are generally less than 0.15 cm around and 1.25 to 4.5 cm long. These are often referred to as fancy shreds.
Flat shreds They are 0.15 to 0.35 cm around, with a flat, "hand-shred" appearance.
Sandwich slices Slices are available in a variety of shapes (rectangular, moon, round, custom) and of varying dimensions to meet end-users' needs.
U.S. manufacturers offer a variety of seasonings in which cheeses play a key role as flavoring agents. Cheese seasonings are often applied on snacks. To achieve desirable adherence, appearance and other characteristics, other functional ingredients are typically added to seasonings. They include butter, whey solids, milk solids and buttermilk. Frequently, salt and spices are added to provide flavor.
Using Seasonings for Cheese-flavored Snacks
The mesh size of seasoning powders needs to be compatible with the oil content of the snack. A coarse particle size of 40 to100 is recommended for potato chips (36 to 38% oil). Corn based chips require a much finer particle size, as their oil content is typically lower (18 to 22%). To maximize adhesion on fat-free snacks, a surface film needs to be created.
In many snacks, a superior flavor profile can be achieved by incorporating cheese seasonings or cheese powders in the product formulation itself, rather than as a coating. Cheese crackers are a good illustration of this type of application.