Recently, the Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin published their 2024 predictions around potential cheese trends. The consensus was that their findings were spot-on. These cheesemakers know their stuff, so when they talk, we listen. And we’re not the only ones. Producers from The Badger State enjoy a huge cult following of devotees, which is why we offer a variety of tangy Cheddars, studded Goudas, and perfected Provolone. We make it hard to choose. Don’t even get us started on the aged Asiago!
This got us thinking about our own Di Bruno Bros. cheese mongers and our In-house American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professionals and what they might be seeing in their respective crystal balls. We jumped on the opportunity to sit down with Emilio Mignucci, Amanda Bernhardt, and Tommy Amorim because well, these three have quite a cheesy pedigree, or shall we say pediBrie, and are well-schooled on the latest and greatest eats. Make no mistake, if the moon really was made of cheese, they’d be among the first to make settlement. All three of our subjects weighed in and we’ve summarized the skinny on 2024 trends below. Watch this space!
1. Retro Rage and Comforting Classics
Suddenly, everything old is cool again. This should come as no surprise because today’s trend forecasters feel that, like fashion, food culture can be very cyclical. “Blame it on those ‘Grandmas of TikTok’ or a flurried offering campy, kitschy pieces from the NYT food section as of late, but there’s a serious movement towards the alluring and magical nostalgic feels of the past,” explains Amanda. “A couple of weeks ago, I read a huge piece on Watergate Salad – which isn’t a salad at all. It’s a throwback dish to the era of Masha, Jan, and Cindy and a cousin of Ambrosia salad. And get this – last year there were 200,000 Google searches for this crazy pistachio pudding side dish. I feel like the cheese category often takes cues from what’s happening in the overarching culinary scene,” Amanda added.
Philadelphians really love a comeback as exemplified by the sheer loose-your-mind frenzy held by fans when The Eagles reintroduced Kelly Green hues to the uniform and subsequently, retail mix. Throwback cheeses, or leaning into cheese experiences, like the fondue craze of yesteryear, can evoke shared memories and pure feelings of unabashed, cornball-like joy. According to dataintelo.com, the global Fondue Pots and Sets market is expected to grow at a growth rate of 5.5% from 2022 to 2030. “As for me, well, I’m making a huge, classic cheese ball comprised of every single one of our signature cheese spreads. I’m going to mold it, roll it in nuts, and drizzle it with honey and I know it’s going to be a hit. It’s just fun and visually cheeky.” shared Amanda. Looking for cheesy retro recipes for your next get-together? We love these suggestions from thekitchn.com.
While food reporters and influencers enjoy writing about the latest newfangled, off-grid cheese uses (oh, hello Parmigiano Reggiano Martini that nearly broke the Internet), we’re actually seeing a return to traditional cheese selections – a respectful embrace of tried-and-true favorites, paying homage to the classics we all know and love. All too often, cheese offerings are viewed as overtly pretentious or chichi. There’s an underlying elitism to this addictive and versatile food group that’s often presented on silver trays with doilies. Sometimes, unfussy and straightforward is best. When you get right down to it, cheese is just four ingredients: milk, starter culture, coagulant, and salt. What’s snooty about that? “Shoppers are always happy to see the classics at our counter,” said Amanda. “There are a lot of people who want to play it safe, but there is a sense of personalization that goes along with that. There’s a sense of pride in curating the right mix of hard and soft, imported, and domestic cheeses. There’s a need sometimes to talk about displaying them properly and cutting them the way they should be cut (or not cut). Does one tooth-pick spear or not? There are many DIYers out there and talking about cheese and sweet, tangly, spicy, and savory foods that compliment cheese groupings is as fun and satisfying as diving into an elevated snack tray.” Getting back to basics by making your own selections and assembling your own arrangements taps your creativity and imagination. Cheese is for everyone. Things don’t always have to be elegant and fancy. In fact, today’s modern, farmhouse-feel kitchens are complemented with a plate that’s less fussy and more rustic!
2. Gen Z – Friends Don’t Let Friends Snack Alone
It’s been said that in general, people eat with their eyes first, but this group eats with their phones first. If it’s not insta-worthy, many feel that perhaps it’s not worth consuming. Their wants and needs are quite different than prior generations according to Business Insider.
The seniors of this group have now reached a higher earning potential which means they’re splurging on items that are a bit more top tier. The trend is purchasing less quantity of each offering, but a wider array of options. No motivating driver is stronger to this Stranger Things-loving crowd than FOMO. They’re into interesting textures and off-beat aesthetics, cool sounds, and impressive and sharable extremes (just search #longestcheesepull on insta and you’ll see what we mean.)
While this audience segment (those born between 1997 and 2012) enjoys a cold, local craft brew (or a Citywide Special in these parts) coupled with a good cheese plate, their true desire is to harness the gratification of cheese experiences and flavor adventures with friends, family and loved ones. Pandemic restrictions created an innately human, pent-up desire to come together to share good times and interesting food. This longing feeling often leads to the door of our Italian Market location or our store at The Franklin in Center City. There, Tommy Amorim, CCP, curates amazing experiences for special after-hours gatherings big and small. Check out #dbafterhours on Instagram to get a feel of the fun that goes on during these intimate cheese-comma-inducing extravaganzas. “If we get a request that seems creatively unusual, we’ll embrace it. For example, if a party called for only stinky cheese pairings for the full 2 hours, we would celebrate that and provide knowledge about what produces that stink! We are shopkeepers and storytellers at Di Bruno Bros.
“It’s not about selling, but rather the telling that truly matters,” added Tommy. When Danny Meyer opened his first Shake Shack, others told him that the food was the star attraction. But Danny knew how to focus on how customers FEEL. And it’s this feeling – Danny calls it “enlightened hospitality” — which is the unicorn element that he inevitably scaled to 320 locations nationwide.
The internet has made available a slew of health, wellness, and cooking information, meaning young people are no longer dependent on others to hone their skills in the kitchen. According to The Hartman Group (a trusted research giant in translating consumer behaviors in the food and beverage culture), 53% of Gen Z enjoys cooking, and 71% “would love to learn how to cook more.” Ethnic and cultural diversity also impacts this generation’s open mindset and appetite for obscure flavor profiles, including the types of spices and condiments used in cooking. By building on this interest in food and embracing an interest in global food, the dairy community has stepped up to demonstrate how cheese, milk, and other dairy foods can be part of an exciting “travel” journey in terms of elevating the taste buds of the wanderlust sect.
Oh, and if you’re not sure who Romilly Newman is, we’ve got your back. You’ll also need to read up on Matthew Merril for good measure. And don’t forget, if it’s ooey and gooey, stinky and smelly, or a cheese that promises to serve as an aphrodisiac, these young cheese lovers are all in. Basically, think about what would make for good content. For Gen Z it’s about G.O.A.T cheese not necessarily goat cheese. #iykyk
3. Diet Schmy-it
“I’m so glad that I stuck with this diet for an entire year,” said very few people in Philadelphia, a place where the smell of fried onions hits you in the face even during the wee hours of the morning. “The truth is that most Americans ditch the diet plan by January 15,” said Emilio. “It’s the Super Bowl’s fault.”
As far as indulgences go, many waist-watchers prefer a piece of cheese over a piece of chocolate. If those endorphins are released, what does it matter? For hardcore dieters in January, it must be
“Anything that is on our shelves is worth the indulgence. If it wasn’t worth the indulgence, it wouldn’t be in our stores! Cheese that’s made well, using quality milk is always going to be a healthy, delicious option. Sure, it might be a little higher in fat – I’m not a doctor, I’m a cheesemonger – but it is good for you. It’s not overly processed and loaded with a bunch of chemical preservatives and other artificial junk. Anything (in moderation) in our cheese department is going to be wonderfully satisfying,” commented Amanda. Tommy chimed in: “Nutritionally speaking, cheese contains everything that a young thing needs to grow, and it’s made bio-available for our bodies to use through fermentation. In fact, I think that the quickest little vitamin that you can take is a piece of superior cheese.”
There’s no disputing that cheese is a tasty source of calcium, fat, and protein. Cheese also contains vitamins A and B12, along with zinc, phosphorus, and riboflavin. And everyone knows that increasing your calcium and protein intake can keep your bones strong and may even help prevent the onset of Osteoporosis.
4. Transparency in Sustainability and Eco-consciousness
Today’s savvy consumers expect cheese producers and mongers to be open and honest. Many people feel that access to information and transparency are closely linked to perceptions around health and sustainability. 2024 is no time to be cagey or guarded about specific and accurate answers to how, when, where, why, and how. Consumers want to know not just exactly what’s in the standouts on the cheeseboard in front of them, but they are also curious about the impact of the cheese production process on our environment and society. This includes knowledge about the health and welfare of the animals and workers at every level.
It’s widely understood that the best cheeses in the world begin with the best quality milk, and the best milk comes from the healthiest cows. That’s why we see more and more customers asking about 100% grass-fed, grass-finished, and sustainably-raised cow milk — from cows that live the way cattle should—free from antibiotics, supplemental feeds, or other industrial practices that could potentially ruin the health and taste.
Interest in eco-friendly products is on the rise. In the past five years, global online searches for sustainable goods have jumped by 71%. Furthermore, 79% of consumers are changing their purchasing habits to reflect their sense of social responsibility (source: https://www.onlinedasher.com/eco-friendly-consumers-statistics).
According to TetraPak.com, “Cheese consumers place the most emphasis on the ingredients and where they are from (72%), with particular attention paid to the inclusion of preservatives (58%), colorants (55%) or palm oil (42%). However, they are also interested in where the product is made (52%), the heat treatments used (41%) and the sterile production (37%). This interest in the process also touches on the packaging of the product, with over two-thirds (69%) placing value on environmentally friendly packaging (more on this below), placing it fourth as a desirable product attribute after ‘ready to eat’ (82%), ‘nutritious’ (81%) and ‘free from added preservatives’ (81%).”
Organic vs. Grass-fed – What’s the Difference?
One way to reduce the environmental footprint of cheese is to opt for organic and grass-fed varieties. Organic cheese is made from milk that comes from cows that are not treated with hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Grass-fed cheese is made from milk that comes from cows that graze on natural pastures, rather than on corn or soy. Both organic and grass-fed cheese have lower emissions, higher animal welfare, and more nutrients than conventional cheese.
Preventing Cheese Waste
Another way to make cheese production more sustainable is to wane waste and to be mindful of excess packaging. Cheese waste can happen at different stages of the production chain, from the farm to the factory to the consumer. Some ways to prevent cheese waste are to utilize cheese by-products (such as whey) for other purposes, to optimize the yield and quality of cheese, and to be knowledgeable on proper storage and consumption. Packaging also plays a role in cheese sustainability, as it can affect the shelf life, freshness, and transport of cheese. To improve packaging today’s cheese producers are using biodegradable or recyclable materials, to minimize the size and weight of packaging.
A third way to make cheese production more sustainable is to embrace innovative technologies. Modern advances can help producers optimize their processes, reduce their costs, and enhance their product offerings. Think sensors, robots, bioreactors, and blockchain. Sensors can monitor the health and productivity of cows, as well as the temperature and humidity of cheese. Robots can automate tasks such as milking, cutting, and packaging. Bioreactors can produce proteins from plants or microbial sources, without relying on animals. Blockchain can provide traceability and transparency along the cheese supply chain from pasture to table.
5. Makers, Mongers, and Consumers—United for the Greater Good
One of the most fascinating aspects of the cheese industry is understanding where products originate and how they’re created. These are the stories within stories that are captivating not only to customers (when we explain these deep, contextual backstories), but also to us, as associates, on an ever-present quest for knowledge. Understanding the nuances of cheese production and the journey that a product makes matters to everyone here. It’s what makes certain cheeses so special.
“I think 2024 is going to be a year of deep dives. Connecting with other mongers and meeting folks making the cheese we sell is amazing. It’s one of the great pleasures we have here at Di Bruno Brothers,” explains Amanda. “It’s a privilege to present somebody’s hard work. Their labor of love is a living, breathing thing. Often, it’s something that farmers and producers have spent years perfecting and you just must respect that, right? Our people have such a sense of pride behind the counter, which is pivotal to their own growth as constant learners,” she added.
One of the most heartwarming and meaningful trends that we’re seeing now is that our customers are not shying away from spending an extra dollar or two if it means supporting family farms and smaller producers. This speaks to the morality and ethics held by socially conscious consumers.
If you were alive during the 1980’s, you’ll remember that it was all about Alf, but these days it’s all about Alp. Right now, Di Bruno Bros. Is honored to support Switzerland’s Adopt an Alp® program. Specifically, we have adopted Alp Gantrischili (FR), formally Steiners Hohberg. A co-op of 8 dedicated families spends the summer in 8 respective chalets on Alp Gantrischli, and each family operates its own restaurant that will undoubtedly spoil visitors with regional specialties. These farmers and cheesemakers bring their animals and families up the Alp every year, an ancient practice that is deeply tied to the cheesemaking tradition in Switzerland but is presently in danger of “going the way of the dinosaur” due to a world and economy that’s constantly in flux.
The Adopt-an-Alp program allows retailers like us to support a specific cheesemaker which communicates to their customers that traditional cheesemaking and Transhumance (the seasonal movement of animals and people from one grazing area to another, typically to high mountain pastures in the summer and lowlands in the winter) is valued. It also gives customers a fantastic opportunity to try cheeses that rarely leave the Alp, let alone the continent.
The co-op’s Gantrischli dairy is located at 4,200 feet (about 1.28 km) altitude (about the span of San Fransisco’s Golden Gate bridge, turned on its side). The milk of 120 black and white cows is received and crafted into about 37,000 pounds (about twice the weight of a school bus) of cheese. The cows graze on the Alpine grass and wildflowers through the late spring and summer. As early fall arrives, the cows are brought down to graze on grass and summer hay. No other fodder is given to the cows except the Alpine meadows.
Muschgerntal (a beautiful valley) belongs to the Fribourg canton, so it comes as no surprise that they make a beautiful Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP from the aromatic floral vegetation and rich summer milk. What angered the folks of Gantrischli very badly in 2016, is an advantage for us at Di Bruno Bros. and subsequently, fans in the Philadelphia region. Without any explanation, the organization of Vacherin Fribourgeois AOP shortened the production rules of the Gantrischli and so, the co-op decided to market the cheese products themselves. We are so proud to support these small but mighty, independent farmers.
Vacherin Fribourgeois is produced by just a few cheese makers so it’s pretty difficult to find. It’s a favorite when used in fondue recipes because it melts so well and because the flavors intensify when heated. It’s wonderful on grilled sandwiches, potatoes, or over-steamed vegetables. It’s also a terrific dessert cheese.
Thanks to the “Adopt an Alp” program, specialty shops like Di Bruno Bros. have access to rare Swiss cheeses. Better yet, our cheesemongers are given the opportunity to connect with the everyday lives of the unreal animals that contribute and the passionate farmers who craft these unique cheeses. This connection leads to a deep mutual respect and the realization that we all need to work together to provide financial stability to these incredibly dedicated and hardworking families.
As the crow flies, it’s about 4,000 miles from the Swiss Alps to Philadelphia, but the closeness that has developed and matured between maker and monger is priceless. In 2024, we look forward to continuing to support innovative programs such as this one. By helping the transhumance movement, we are rewarded with the best artisanal cheeses in the world and we’re able to extend this buying opportunity to local enthusiasts.
“Somehow, telling these amazing anecdotes to our customers just creates mind-blowing magic that goes far beyond one’s palate,” added Amanda. “I think understanding the mystique and the method of creating beautifully made cheeses can oftentimes be just as satisfying as eating them!”
Creating meaningful connections between cheesemakers, retailers, and consumers will enable us to continue enjoying Alp cheese in the future. Moreover, it’s this tremendous triad that has been making Di Bruno’s legacy so special and unique since 1939.