When you go to prepare a satisfying bagel, what do you reach for? Maybe peanut butter, maybe your favorite breakfast sandwich toppings, but most likely it’s cream cheese -- and Philadelphia is one of the most recognizable brands out there.
Does it taste better than, say, Organic Valley? Couldn’t tell ya if I tried -- I actually had to Google what other cream cheese brands are out there. Philadelphia currently occupies 68 percent of the market share in the U.S., a spokesperson for the brand told Bon Appetit. But how did Philadelphia take over the cream cheese market, and do Pennsylvanians even have anything to do with it?
Pennsylvania dairy farms were well-known for soft, creamy cheese that was made with whole milk during the 1800s. Other cream cheeses, like the ones made in New York, were made with skim milk, creating a chalkier taste -- gross. Obviously, if you had to choose, you were going with the buttery, full-fat option out of the Keystone State.
A chap named William Lawrence (ya never trust a guy with two first names) schemed his way around this bad reputation. A New Yorker, Lawrence cheated in creating his brand of cream cheese: He still made it with skim milk, but also added lard to make you think it was the richer option. And what did he write on the label? "Philadelphia."
He trademarked both "Philadelphia" and "Pennsylvania" to really sell it to customers, who he was basically attracting through pretense.
Well, reader, it worked. Lawrence merged his brand with Kraft Foods in 1928, created a pasteurized version of his product, and off into the sunset together they went.
It became the first product of its time: Its long-lasting shelf life, spreadability and rich taste all but infiltrated households in the early- to mid-20th century. That, and this was when recipes shared in magazines and advertisements were booming, so smart marketing (a recipe called the "Philadelphia cake," for instance) sent people into a tizzy over the stuff.
"Philadelphia has been in the cream cheese game for so long that it became synonymous with cream cheese," baking author Stella Parks told Bon Appetit.
Classic brand loyalty. And faking it 'til you make it.
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