innovation key might be
Biery Cheese Company teams with Nueske’s to create award winner at this year’s International Cheese Show in Milwaukee, WI.
It’s a hot concept in CPG retailing today, especially as companies try to compete in an increasingly complex retail environment—one in which consumers are demanding more unique flavors and innovative products than ever before.
While much of the innovation in the marketplace involves unusual ingredient pairings and spice combinations (think artisan salami made with juniper berries and Pinot Noir; or a cheese hand-rubbed with freshly roasted espresso), collaboration can work well when meat and cheese companies team to create products for the deli or retail markets, too.
Case in point: Louisville, Ohio-based Biery Cheese Company recently partnered with Nueske’s to create Bacon Studded Cheese, a product that took home Best in Class honors at the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest in the Pasteurized Process - Flavored category in April.
Modern Deli Mobile reached out to Ben Biery, CEO of Biery Cheese Company, and Don Bergman, director of sales and marketing for Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats, to learn about the collaborative process that led to the launch of this award-winning cheese.
Modern Deli Mobile: How did you come up with the idea for the Bacon Studded Cheese? What was the development process like, and how did the idea go from concept to completion?
Ben Biery: Every year, we try to get all of our forces together to brainstorm and identify what the current flavor trends are and where we can exceed the expectations of the judges of the championship cheese contests, whether it’s for the United States or the World Championship Cheese Contest (just completed in April 2016). We always have our go-to cheeses, but we also try to come up with a cheese that is new and exciting.
This year, we looked at bacon. I have been a fan of Nueske’s for a very long time. Their quality and taste is unlike anything else. I contacted Nueske’s as soon as the idea was on the table and and asked if this was something that they would be interested in doing. They were immediately on board and sent us three premium varieties of Applewood Smoked Bacon. Little did they know that we would take the boldest route, choosing to use all three!
Don Bergman, director of sales and marketing for Nueske's and Ben Biery, CEO of Biery Cheese Company collaborated to create an award-winning combination.
Don Bergman: When Biery began to talk about the infusion of a smoky bacon with their cheese, we talked about our different varieties of bacon and what the best match would be. Together, we came up with a proprietary blend of our smoked bacons to pair with the cheese that Biery was planning on making, with the blend including Nueske’s fruitwood smoked bacon varieties.
Ben Biery: Our cheesemakers profiled the bacon and determined that it was too good to be finely chopped, which led to the studded effect with larger pieces spread throughout. Next our cheesemakers went to work on the formula for the cheese itself. What would complement the bacon? What would make it stand out and still produce a cheese with that smooth and creamy texture that we all love? It took a couple of rounds of testing and reformulating, but the outcome was phenomenal. After we knew we had the perfect combination of cheese and bacon, we sent them off a sample that was well received!
Modern Deli Mobile: Have you been involved in, or seen, any other collaborative efforts similar to what you've done together? Do you think this kind of collaboration is a new trend that holds promise industry-wide for the development of other products?
Ben Biery: Biery has been involved in multiple projects with different companies where the ideas revolve around new types of cheese that bring something unique to the table in terms of flavor or convenience by the way that the cheese is cut. We’ve also been involved in projects that include packaging concepts that have something new to offer consumers.
Don Bergman: I think that using high-quality smoked bacon is a way to infuse not only restaurant dishes but also other products like cheeses or sauces with memorable flavor. It is a way to add value, which is something we’ve been seeing more of this past year—and it’s something that will continue to grow in popularity. When you use even a small amount of a good protein with an authentic, smoky flavor, you can really get your money’s worth and create something that people want to come back for. Biery created a creamy white cheese that, when infused with the deep, mellow smoke from Nueske’s bacon, makes for an incredible balance of flavors. We really like how they paired their cheese and our trio of bacons to create one smooth, unique flavor.
Modern Deli Mobile: Now on to the cheese market, in general. What are some trends Biery has seen happening in the category over the past year or so?
Ben Biery: A back-to-the-roots [movement] seems to be in play lately. People are interested in the classics and are looking for cheeses that are natural, organic and rBST-Free. They are gravitating towards simplistic ingredients, which is driving an uptick in these categories.
Interest in blends that are new creations, and artistic plays on recipes that take two common cheeses like mozzarella and cheddar and make them into one unique flavor profile are on the rise. People are still loving spicy, sweet and savory cheeses that include flavors like the traditional jalapeno. We also have seen cheeses with ghost pepper flavors pop up, as well as some with chile lime.
We chose bacon because it has always been a classic, and we will put bacon on just about anything—donuts, ice cream, etc. Bacon has what many argue is a perfect combination of all the savory elements.
Modern Deli Mobile: How important a role did slicing play in the development of the new Biery-Nueske’s product? How does it play into the success of Biery Cheese in general?
Ben Biery: We have been slicing cheese since 1968 with conventional slicers. When we upgraded to Weber slicers we increased efficiencies. Slicing allows Biery to explore different paths like snacking and convenience as well as slices for gourmet burgers and sandwiches.
For National Grilled Cheese Month and to celebrate the gold [medal] that the Bacon Studded Cheese brought us, we grilled up grilled cheeses for all of our employees, both in Ohio and Wisconsin. We literally did this on the grill with grilling mats laid on the grates—it was perfect! With the Weber slicers, we were able to make more than enough grilled cheese sandwiches for over 600 employees.
Other “collaborations” of meat, cheese and more are heating up the snack market.
While it may still be novel to find two well known brands collaborating on the formulation of a single meat and cheese product, one of the bright spots in the current market for healthy, protein-based snacks has been the introduction of portable and conveniently packaged combo-packs from well-known suppliers to the deli case. As you see in the three offerings illustrated here, fruits, nuts and other natural flavors are also adding to the variety of consumer options.
In February 2014, the Oscar Mayer brand introduced the P3 Portable Protein Pack—packs of meat, cheese and nuts designed for active consumers. The original offerings included several varieties of Oscar Mayer Selects Meats, Kraft Natural Cheeses and Planters Nuts. In July 2015, the company expanded the P3 line with the introduction of Nut Clusters (meat, cheese and crunchy mixed nut clusters). More recently, Oscar Mayer added nut-free Deli Snackers—P3 Portable Protein Packs with two kinds of meat plus cheese.
The Hillshire Snacking Brand includes a line of “Small Plates” that include Genoa Salame and Natural white Cheddar Cheese, Wine-Infused Salame with Natural White Cheddar Cheese, Italian Dry Salame with Natural Gouda Cheese and Hot Calabrese Salame with Natural Gouda Cheese.
Sargento has created an on-the-go option for consumers looking for a satisfying snack sans the meat. Balanced Breaks include creamy natural cheese pieces paired with crunchy roasted nuts and sweet dried fruits. Varieties include Natural Sharp Cheddar Cheese with Cashews and Cranberries, Pepper Jack Natural Cheese with Peanuts and Raisins, Natural White Cheddar with Almonds and Cranberries and Natural Sharp White Cheddar Cheese with Cashews and Raisins.