Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Smile and Say Cheese!

by Connie Cortright

With the upcoming holiday season, many wives across this country will be purchasing Velveeta Cheese in jars or packages to use in a cheese dip at a Christmas or New Year's Eve party. This processed cheese, first manufactured in the 1920s, was given the name Velveeta (for it's velvety consistency) simply because it melted so smoothly.

However, Velveeta wasn't invented for the purpose of melting. The original purpose of this product was to put cheese back together. Emil Frey, working in a cheese factory in Monroe, New York, had the task of coming up with a solution to a problem that all cheese factories faced, figuring out what to do with cheese leftovers. Up to this point, all the pieces from misshapen Swiss cheese wheels or broken bits of cheese that couldn't be sold, had to be tossed aside. In the early 1900s, the problem of cheese pieces multiplied because more cheese was produced and consumed. The value of the wasted pieces couldn't be overlooked any longer. It was decided that all the leftovers would now be shipped back to Monroe Cheese Factory for Mr. Frey to deal with.

After working over his stove, he found that by adding the liquid whey, a by-product of the cheese making process, back into the pot of melted cheese pieces, a very smooth new cheese product resulted. Since this was a manufactured cheese product, it became known as processed cheese. Frey discovered that processed cheese lasted much longer than natural cheeses.

By 1923, Frey had formed the Velveeta Cheese Company to sell his new product. Because of its ability to melt so smoothly, Velveeta became an instant hit, especially in restaurants in America and even Europe. However, the Velveeta Cheese Company didn't fair so well. By 1927 the company was sold to Kraft Foods, as we know it still today.

Kraft pushed the nutritional value of this processed cheese stating that with the addition of whey, the carbohydrates and minerals were boosted in the cheese. It became something of a "dairy wonder-product". Kraft had Velveeta tested by Rutgers University for it's nutritional benefits. In 1931 the American Medical Association gave its stamp of approval for nutritional value. It was marketed in the 30s then as nutritionally superior to natural cheeses.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Velveeta is still a very popular product today in many forms and many recipes. I'm hoping that I can taste some yummy dip made from Velveeta over the next several weeks.

Happy eating!

Information taken from Where Does Velveeta and Liederkranz Cheese Come From and There is no Shortage History.


  1. Interesting. Usually "processed" foods have a negative image.

  2. That's by today's standards, I'm sure. Back in the 20s, anything that was canned, processed, or done on a large scale by a company was thought to be so healthful because it was so healthful to be modern with electricity coming on board, etc. People believed anything they saw in magazine ads also - a much different time.