Science & Research

Product innovation: Cheese

Research submissions

In order to keep the dairy industry strong, National Dairy Council® product research drives demand for dairy products and ingredients through the funding of pre-competitive nutrition and product research.

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Learn more about current research that focuses on improving the quality and safety of cheese, developing lower-sodium options and creating and manufacturing nutritionally enhanced and specialty cheeses.
Snack product showcasing melted cheese

Research for additional options to meet consumer needs

Through innovative cheese research, technology and product development, the dairy industry is able to provide chefs, food formulators and consumers with more varieties and forms of cheeses to use.

View the most recent technical insights and research below or log in and download the complete list of research projects in this area.

Published research

Cheese product research broadens varieties
Lactate concentration and pH are critical to low-sodium cheese safety
A model Cheddar cheese system was used to evaluate relative survival of four common food pathogens; E. coli had the best survival. Its death rate was increased by keeping the hydrogen ion concentration high. This was done by increasing lactic acid content and lowering pH. Salt was less important as a control factor which could be good news for those with concerns about sodium in their diet.
Impact of salt replacers on cheddar cheese manufacture and quality
This is an in-depth report on the differences in microbiology and chemistry of Cheddar cheeses that result from using salt replacers. An understanding of these parameters will allow for the design of better lower-sodium products in the future. The ability to make quality reduced-sodium cheese is important to meet proposed standards for schools and some food service applications.
Fresh mozzarella requires more than 2 percent salt to extend shelf life beyond 21 days
Fresh mozzarella contains very little acid and less than 2 percent salt, so it has a limited shelf life — even when it is properly refrigerated. Researchers found that adding 2 percent salt to mozzarella during production is not enough to prevent unwanted microorganisms from growing and spoiling the cheese in two to four weeks.
Reducing salt levels in Irish Cheddar cheese causes quality defects
Researchers demonstrated that a range of quality defects increased in Cheddar cheese when salt levels were reduced significantly. Their study showed that lower-salt (0.5 to 1.25 percent) cheeses ripened too quickly and caused them to develop mushy texture and off-flavors.
Biodiversity of lactococcal bacteriophages isolated from 3 Gouda-type cheese-producing plants
This study reports on the identification and characterization of bacteriophages isolated from cheese production facilities that use undefined, mixed starter cultures.
Low-fat cheese uses a reduced-fat Cheddar and micellar casein to improve flavor and texture
Researchers created a new formulation that uses aged 50 percent reduced-fat Cheddar cheese and micellar casein concentrate (MCC) as its main ingredients. The resulting cheese product was 6 percent fat, 28 percent protein and 1.2 percent salt.
Full-flavored, reduced-sodium Gouda cheese can be made by using ripening culture
Reduced-sodium cheese may be a healthier option for consumers, but achieving good flavor and texture can be a challenge. It is possible to produce a full-flavored, lower-sodium Gouda cheese by adding extra Lactobacillus culture.
Selected starches identified as potential fat-replacers in low-fat cheese
Scientists at the Western Dairy Center at Utah State University found that waxy corn (WC), waxy rice (WR) and instant tapioca (IT) starches can potentially replace fat in simulated low-fat cheese.
Flavor balance, but not texture, dependent on salt content of Cheddar cheese
Researchers in Denmark found that texture was mostly unaffected as they reduced the salt content of Cheddar cheese, but that a variety of flavor notes became significantly less desirable. The best flavor profile was found in cheeses with 1.7 to 2.3 percent salt.
High hydrostatic pressure processing reduces starter survival but not bitterness in lower-salt Cheddar cheeses
High Hydrostatic Pressure (HHP) processing of reduced- and low-sodium Cheddar cheeses resulted in initial differences in microbiological, flavor and texture profiles. HHP is a relatively new process used to preserve high-value, heat-sensitive foods. It now is being researched for use in controlling microorganisms in cheese.
Potassium chloride and flavor enhancers may improve low-sodium Cheddar cheese
Researchers at the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center at the University of Minnesota evaluated the use of potassium chloride with and without flavor enhancers to develop consumer-acceptable, 60 percent reduced-sodium Cheddar cheeses.
Controlling brown coloring in aged Parmesan cheese
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison uncovered evidence indicating that an undesirable brown color formation in Parmesan starts with a chemical known as methylglyoxal. Methylglyoxal is produced by some starter strains and nonstarter bacteria during lactose fermentation.
Queso fresco cheese requires special care to reduce food safety risks
Researchers at the USDA Agricultural Research Center demonstrated that queso fresco remains at high risk for foodborne contamination. This study indicates that manufacturers treat the cheese with a food-grade antimicrobial or use high-pressure processing to inhibit the organisms from growing during storage.
Color of low-fat cheese affects consumer liking and taste
Consumers will accept less fat in cheese if its visual appeal is similar to full-fat products. Use of a mixture of titanium dioxide and annatto cheese colors with low-fat Cheddar cheese improved its appearance while neither was as desirable separately.
New rapid method to determine sodium in dairy products proposed
Italian researchers have developed a new method for determining the amount of sodium in dairy products based on capillary electrophoresis techniques. The proposed method should take less than 30 minutes per sample, making it a relatively quick testing procedure that can differentiate between cations.
Salt whey used to produce new process cheese product
Researchers at South Dakota State University found an innovative process to recycle salt whey, the byproduct released during cheese pressing, back into cheese products. They modified a formulation for process cheese product by replacing salt with salt whey and by using a young exopolysaccharide (EPS) Cheddar as the base cheese.
Manufacture of reduced-sodium process cheeses using potassium phosphates
Researchers from the Max Rubner-Institut in Germany have developed lower-sodium process cheese by replacing some sodium-containing emulsifying salts with potassium and using a reduced-sodium Cheddar cheese as the base. Their top three formulations contained less than 1 percent emulsifying salts.
Type of salt replacer affects the quality of reduced-sodium Cheddar cheese
Researchers from the Midwest Dairy Foods Research Center at the University of Minnesota evaluated seven salt replacers in reduced-sodium Cheddar cheese and found that two potassium chloride products produced cheeses that were most similar to the regular Cheddar cheese control.
Study uses scientific methods to compare internal food structure to sensory perception
Researchers at North Carolina State University are studying the relationships between food structures and sensory perceptions to help the dairy industry understand how different ingredients affect the way consumers evaluate texture during their chewing process.
Cheese aging: how Listeria monocytogenes survives salty environments and different temperatures
Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) can be difficult to control as it tolerates acid, salt, warm and cold temperatures, and bile salts. Important changes in gene activation by Lm, in response to salt or low temperature (7 C), increase its survival when challenged by later stresses, such as those occurring during cheese ripening.
Critical level of disodium phosphate identified for developing better, lower-sodium process cheese
Although it is possible to decrease sodium levels in process cheese, a minimum concentration of 750 milligrams of disodium phosphate (DSP) per 100 g of cheese is required to maintain the structure, flavor and character of the product. This study explains the role of emulsifying salts in process cheese and the defects that occur when too much DSP is removed.
Milkfat supports Lactobacillus casei growth at lower temperatures in Cheddar, helps control flavor
Lactobacillus casei is important in controlling flavor of Cheddar cheese during ripening. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison identified that free fatty acids in milk significantly enhance growth of L. casei at refrigeration temperatures.
Strategies for protecting cottage cheese: starter culture strains of Lactococcus lactis show ability to help control Listeria monocytogenes in cottage cheese
Nisin A and lacticin 481 are antimicrobial compounds produced by selected starter culture strains of Lactococcus lactis. The antimicrobial compounds, also called bacteriocins, were able to stop growth of Listeria in a broth system and show promise in controlling its growth in cottage cheese.
Brine controls composition and yield of provolone-type cheese
Researchers in Italy demonstrated that cheese manufacturers can control the composition and structure of Ragusano cheese (similar to provolone) by controlling not only the salt and calcium concentration but also the brining temperature.
A simple process for manufacturing fat-free, colorless whey protein from Cheddar whey without bleaching has been developed
A simple method to remove fat and color from Cheddar cheese whey has been developed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Because dried whey protein powders made from this process are white and 99 percent fat-free, they tend to be more desirable for multiple uses.
Avoiding off-flavors in whey products: it starts with the starter cultures
Starter cultures used for cheese making may be causing cardboard off-flavors in dried whey ingredients. This study gives dairy processors a basic understanding of flavor development and the expert insights to reduce or prevent rancid flavor development in liquid and dry whey products.
Mathematical models help illustrate fat behavior in Cheddar cheese and can aid in texture improvements for low-fat cheeses
Researchers recently evaluated mathematical models to show how fat interacts with caseins to build the structure of Cheddar cheese, and how cheese firmness changes with temperature and age. Researchers can use these equations to design fat replacement molecules for low-fat cheeses that would achieve a target cheese texture for a given use.
Low-salt Cheddar cheese does not support growth of Salmonella
New research shows that low-sodium Cheddar cheese does not allow Salmonella to grow, but the bacteria’s survival is longer than in traditional cheese. Cheddar cheese can have up to 61 percent less salt and still produce enough lactic acid to kill Salmonella, but salt speeds the reduction.
New research on reducing calcium lactate crystals in cheese
Calcium lactate crystals appear on the outside of cheese as a white haze and often are mistaken for mold by consumers. Investigators created model systems with 5.3 percent calcium lactate and varying concentrations of sodium gluconate, which is known to prevent calcium lactate crystals.
Investigating the influence of calcium binding salts on casein in nonfat cheese and milk protein solutions
The interactions between casein, free calcium and calcium bound into the casein micelle are critical to the textural properties of all milk products, especially cheese. These studies aimed to increase understanding of the very complex interactions between the proteins in milk and cheese products.
Listeria survival similar in low- and regular-salted Cheddar cheese
Salt, pH and lactic acid content represent some of the multiple hurdles contributing to the microbiological safety of traditional cheeses. Public health officials’ desire to reduce sodium in the diet has resulted in concern about the possible effect on the microbiological safety of low-sodium cheese.
Model system predicts required amount of salt replacer prior to production of cheese
Substituting salt replacers for salt on a weight basis does not achieve the same water activity in cheese and therefore may result in growth of undesirable organisms or differences in the ripened flavor of the cheese.
Cheese manufactured at higher temperatures retains less fat
The desire for faster cheese manufacturing and the use of mixed Streptococcus/Lactococcus cultures have resulted in higher set temperatures, which also can result in lower yield. Investigators from Australia created cheeses that were set at different temperatures but had the same gel strength at cut by varying the time to cut.
Cracking the flavor code for low-fat cheese: key compounds that differentiate between reduced-fat and full-fat flavor identified
Twelve key compounds in aged full-fat Cheddar cheese have been identified that impart balanced flavor when added to 75 percent reduced-fat Cheddar cheese.
Non-starter bacteria needed for Hispanic cheese manufacturing identified
Hispanic-style cuisine continues to grow in popularity in the United Sates, with Hispanic-style cheeses serving as a key ingredient. Chihuahua cheese, or Queso Menonita, is a popular Hispanic cheese traditionally made in Mexico that has a unique tangy flavor different from that of Cheddar.
Vitamin D-fortified cheese can retain original flavor
A recent study found that manufacturers who fortify Cheddar cheese by adding vitamin D emulsion to cheese milk, with or without homogenization, can do so without altering the initial flavor of the cheese.
Antihypertensive activity limited in model Hispanic cheese
Recent research found queso fresco produced in Mexico has higher levels of small proteins that might have antihypertensive activity than U.S. laboratory-produced cheeses of the same variety.
Lowering added salt to 1.5 percent in queso fresco results in cheese with stable functional properties
Due to an increasing U.S. Hispanic population and more Hispanic-type foods being incorporated into mainstream diets, Hispanic cheeses continue to be one of the fastest-growing products in the dairy category.
Probiotics survive for one year in Cheddar cheese
New research documents an effective method of adding bifidobacteria into Cheddar cheese. Interest in bifidobacteria has grown in recent years due to numerous health claims regarding bifidobacteria and a healthy microbiota.
Impact of fat reduction on flavor and flavor chemistry of Cheddar cheeses
This study documents and compares flavor development in cheeses with different fat contents and quantitatively characterizes how flavor and flavor development in Cheddar cheeses are altered with fat reduction.
Characterization of the rheological, textural, and sensory properties of samples of commercial U.S. cream cheese with different fat contents
This study characterized the rheological and textural properties of commercial cream cheeses with different fat levels and from different commercial brands. These findings allowed authors to identify the role(s) that fat plays in the textural properties of cream cheese.
Tools for food safety: researchers create a new antimicrobial compound from lactose
Researchers from the Western Dairy Center created the antimicrobial agent from two nutrients in milk: lactose sugar and laurate, a fatty acid. This new antimicrobial provides the dairy industry with a potential preservative for use in high-risk products like queso fresco.
Effects of the concentration of insoluble calcium phosphate associated with casein micelles on the functionality of directly acidified cheese
This study determined that the loss of insoluble calcium increases the melting in cheeses that have the same pH and gross chemical composition. Removal of insoluble calcium can even make cheese high in pH (~5.73) exhibit reasonable melt characteristics.
Insights for making a better low-fat cheese: current products often require more muscle activity to chew
The latest research shows it takes six seconds longer to chew low-fat cheese compared with full-fat cheese. This article demonstrates that consumers naturally change their chewing pattern and muscle activity to accommodate the texture of food.
Model cheese system monitors growth and metabolism of Lactobacillus paracasei to allow better understanding of flavor development
Understanding the growth and metabolism of Lactobacillus paracasei is important in controlling the flavor of Cheddar cheese. The development and validation of the new model system for cheese allows researchers to better understand how the bacteria grow and make flavors in a much simpler system that reflects its growth in cheese.
Changes in lactic acid bacteria, due to removal of fat, results in flavor changes in Cheddar cheese
This study demonstrated that fat reduction in Cheddar cheese was correlated with changes in populations of starter and nonstarter lactic acid bacteria (NSLAB). The researchers further observed that these changes in bacterial numbers probably were not a direct result of the fat concentration but more likely were due to changes in the cheese microenvironment.
Understanding cheese formulation change risks is critical to providing safe products
New research from the University of Minnesota shows that replacing sodium chloride with potassium chloride (a salt substitute) or just lowering the sodium chloride content did not significantly alter the survival of the post-manufacture inoculation of Listeria monocytogenes. Although the Listeria did die slowly, this study demonstrates the importance of using good manufacturing practices in all processes used to manufacture, shred, slice and package cheese that is safe for consumers.
Understanding the microflora of the cheese plant helps maintain a consistent flavor profile in high-value, artisan cheeses
The characteristic flavor of many cheeses is dependent on the nonstarter lactic acid bacteria and other microflora that are unique to the particular cheese plant. A study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, is one of the first to intensively investigate the relationship between manufacturing facilities and the microflora found in cheeses from those facilities.