The Cheese is a Lie – The Truth About “Philadelphia” Cream Cheese

cream cheese

Spoiler alert: Philadelphia Cream Cheese isn't actually from around here.

Just imagine that, every time you went to the grocery store in your adult life and bought your favorite bagel schmear, you’d been lied to.

Okay, so that’s overdramatic. But we need to talk about Philadelphia Cream Cheese, a popular item from the dairy aisle that has been misleading consumers since 1880. The T is that this delicious, spreadable soft cheese, similar to Neufchâtel, never had anything to do with the City of Brotherly Love. Do you feel at least a little betrayed?

Kraft Heinz Co., which makes the product, claims that the cream cheese was invented in 1872, in the wake of the Civil War. It was a hit, but it needed a name. Philadelphia was, at the time, known for their premium, highest-quality dairy farming and milk products. Hence the city’s name was attached, to give the cheese a hint of cachet.

Even today, Philadelphia Cream Cheese consistently outsells store brands, of which there is usually at least one for every grocery store out there. The products are essentially the same, says Jeff Jubelirer, a public relations strategist who has been working in Philadelphia for two decades, but the brand-name stuff has staying power. Is it still because of the name?

Frankly, there has never been a better time in history to have the Philadelphia name adorning your product, no matter what it is. Not only has Philly gained cred as a major foodie city, notable for more than cheesesteaks and TastyKakes, but the city has been increasingly prominent in the public eye for the last half-decade. It started with a globally-visible visit from the Pope in 2015, continued with the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which was held in Center City, and skyrocketed with the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2018 Super Bowl win. Philly is starting to rival New York and Boston for overall desirability, so it’s little wonder that some people want to cash in on that social currency – even if it’s just a cheesy little matter.

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