CLOSE

14 Cheesy Facts About Velveeta

You can mix it into a casserole, melt it into a dip, squirt it on top of a salad and, apparently, bake it into fudge. No matter how you slice it (or dice it, or nuke it), Velveeta is an iconic brand, and a testament to the wondrous power of American food processing. Here, we take a look at the company’s early days, its evolution, and the real driving force behind Ro-Tel dip.

1. IT WAS INVENTED TO SALVAGE BROKEN CHEESE WHEELS.

Back in the early 1900s, New York’s Monroe Cheese Company was one of the country’s most successful cheese makers. It had a big problem, however: Many of the Swiss cheese wheels that came out of its Pennsylvania factory were broken or misshapen. So the company sent some of its discarded product to in-house cheese wiz Emil Frey, a Swiss immigrant who’d recently invented Liederkranz, a popular American take on Limburger cheese. Frey tinkered around with the cheese pieces on his home stove, and eventually found that by adding byproducts like whey back into the cheese, he could create a smooth, pliable food product. When melted, it had a velvety consistency to it, so Frey called it Velveeta.

2. KRAFT BOUGHT THE COMPANY AND MADE SOME TWEAKS.

For four years, Velveeta operated independently out of Monroe, N.Y., until Kraft purchased it in 1927. Kraft, which had made its own strides in processed cheese technology, wanted another weapon to add to its arsenal, and the company tinkered with Frey’s formula in-house while using the Swiss inventor’s name in marketing materials. 

3. IT WAS ORIGINALLY MARKETED AS A HEALTHY PRODUCT.

Adding whey back into the mixture, the company reasoned, bumped up Velveeta’s nutritional value. Check out this TV ad from 1958, which targets "weight-watching moms" and their “youngsters.”

4. IT HAD THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION'S STAMP OF APPROVAL.

In 1931, the AMA claimed Velveeta had all the nutritional qualities to promote “firm flesh.” These were the days of doctor-endorsed cigarettes, after all.

5. EARLY RECIPES INCLUDED POURING IT OVER TOASTED PEANUT BUTTER SANDWICHES.

An ad in Better Homes and Gardens, 1953. Jamie, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The company’s early ads instructed housewives to make a cheese sauce using ½ pound of Velveeta and ¼ cup of milk, then pour it "over toasted sandwiches of peanut butter and pickles." Sounds… delightful.

6. IT WAS HUGE IN GERMANY.

Demand was so high for Velveta, as it was called there, that the company’s plant in Lindenberg could barely keep up once the product was introduced in Germany in 1937

7. KRAFT BEGAN PROMOTING IT AS A DIP TO AVOID INTERNAL COMPETITION.

An ad from 1951. Jamie, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In the ‘50s, Kraft came out with pre-sliced cheese, which brought it perilously close to competing with the blocks of Velveeta it was instructing shoppers to slice up. So the company put all its advertising heft behind Velveeta as a dip and a sauce.

8. IT'S NOT REALLY CHEESE.

Real cheese used to be part of the product, but these days Velveeta is mainly whey protein concentrate and milk protein concentrate mixed with milk, fat and preservatives—which is not technically cheese by the Food and Drug Administration’s standards. In 2002, the FDA sent the company a warning letter asking them change their labeling from “cheese spread” to “cheese product,” and Kraft complied.

9. PEOPLE LIKE TO MAKE THEIR OWN HOMEMADE VERSIONS.

Apparently you don’t need to be a multinational food conglomerate to make Velveeta. You just need some milk, shredded cheese, salt and gelatin. 

10. IF YOU LOVE RO-TEL DIP, IT'S PROBABLY BECAUSE OF A CALCULATED MARKETING MOVE.

For years, people in the south have been combining cans of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and chilies with blocks of Velveeta to make a delicious dip. Lyndon and Ladybird Johnson were apparently big fans. But it wasn’t until 2004 that the dish gained any marketing muscle. That’s when food giant ConAgra, which purchased Ro-Tel in 2002, quietly entered into an agreement with competitor Kraft to promote cans of Ro-Tel and Velveeta side-by-side in stores and through advertisements. It was a brilliant move that boosted sales of both brands, which were slumping at the time.

11. REMEMBER CHEESEPOCALYPSE?

Back in January 2014, Kraft announced a shortage of Velveeta due to a recall and transition to a new production facility. The timing couldn’t have been worse, falling just weeks before the Super Bowl. Some people wondered if it was all a publicity stunt, something the company denied. Others proceeded to lose their minds.

12. TURNS OUT THAT WAS A BIG WIN FOR THE COMPANY.

Rather than shrink from the “Cheesepocalype” controversy, Kraft embraced it with straightforward communication and a welcome dose of irony, referring to Velveeta as “our nation’s most precious commodity: Liquid Gold.” They also created a website that tracked the shortage across the country. Fans poured their hearts out on social media, and the buzz proved way more valuable than advertising.

13. CHEFS USE IT.

And celebrities with cooking shows! And there are more of them using it than you’d think. They seem to prefer the sneak-it-in method for a quick, easy flavor boost.

14. THERE'S AN '80S COVER BAND CALLED VELVEETA.

They play all the cheesiest hits of the decade.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Live Smarter
Food Going Bad? How to Set the Correct Temperature For Your Fridge
iStock
iStock

Depending on the size of your household, your grocery bill can sometimes outpace utility costs or other expenses, making it one of the biggest monthly expenditures in your budget. If you've spent that money on organic, fresh produce, watching it go bad faster than it should can be a frustrating experience.

If your lettuce is getting icy or your meat is smelling a little fishy, the problem might be your refrigerator's temperature setting. While many newer fridge models have digital thermometers that make checking for the correct temperature easy—it should be right around 37°F, with your freezer at 0°F—others have a manual dial that offers ambiguous settings numbered from one to five or one to 10.

Fortunately, there's an easy way to make the knob match your ideal climate. Refrigerator thermometers are available at home goods stores or online and provide a digital readout of the refrigerator's interior that's usually accurate within 1°F. Leave the thermometer on the middle shelf to get the correct reading.

Once you have the appliance set, be sure to check it periodically to make sure it's maintaining that temperature. Packing too much food on your shelves, for example, tends to make the interior warmer. If the coils need to be cleaned, it might be retaining more heat. Kept at a steady 37°F, your food should remain fresh, safe, and perfectly cold.

 

[h/t Reader's Digest]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Universal Orlando Resort
arrow
Food
Voodoo Doughnut Is Coming to the East Coast (Finally!)
Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando Resort

Voodoo Doughnut, the beloved Portland purveyor of creative pastries, is finally coming to the East Coast. The company is opening a shop at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida, according to Travel + Leisure.

The original Voodoo Doughnut opened in Portland, Oregon in 2003. An early adopter of the maple-bacon dessert trend, it became famous for its Maple Bacon Bar and has since added doughnuts that incorporate other quirky flavors like bubble gum dust, Tang, and Fruit Loops. (At one point, the company sold doughnuts glazed with NyQuil, as well as one called a Vanilla Pepto Crushed Tums doughnut, but both of those have been discontinued by order of the health department.) Several of its unique flavors have also been turned into beers by the Oregon-based Rogue Ale.

A chocolate doughnut with a candy skull inside the hole.
A Dia de los Muertos-themed doughnut
Mathieu Thouvenin, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The popular Portland location usually features a line out the door and down the block, and the company now has outposts in Eugene, Denver, Austin, and Los Angeles. It has such a cult following that the stores will not just provide doughnuts for your wedding—they will host the ceremony. Now, East Coast doughnut lovers will be able to get in on the action, too.

The Universal Orlando CityWalk store has opened already, but it’s still in preview mode, meaning the hours can vary, and there's no guarantee it will be open every day. When it officially opens later this spring, it will be serving up more than 50 types of doughnuts seven days a week from 7 a.m. to midnight, and until 1 a.m. on weekends.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER