February 26, 2024


It's the Technology

This Fact About Philadelphia Cream Cheese Is Blowing the Internet’s Mind


What comes to mind when you think “Philadelphia”? The zoo? Benjamin Franklin? Philadelphia cheese?

Well, you’d better scrap that last one, because a viral Reddit post has revealed a little-known fact about the soft cheese’s origins.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese Original
This little-known fact may have been news to Redditors, but is publicly available on the Philadelphia Cream Cheese website. A tub of original Philadelphia Cream Cheese spread.
The Kraft Heinz Company

In a post to the subreddit todayilearned (which can be viewed here), user u/dansux said: “TIL Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented in New York and has never been made in Philadelphia. Its name was part of a clever marketing strategy, because at the time (1880s) Philadelphia was known for its high quality dairy.”

The fact that Philadelphia cheese isn’t actually made in Philly blew Redditor’s minds, receiving 42,000 upvotes and over 1,000 comments.

Ttcmzx said: “Everything I think I know is a lie.”

Joabyjojo commented: “I always thought it was extremely weird that a Philly Cheese Steak included no philly cream cheese while a New York Cheesecake did but I guess it makes sense now.”

Sirfuzzitoes joked: “Get f*****, that’s our cream cheese. With love, Philadelphia.”

It turns out that Philadelphia Cream Cheese was actually created in New York in 1871 by a man called William Lawrence. According to the Philadelphia website, Lawrence invented cream cheese to bring “a fresher, richer taste experience to the cheese market.”

In 1880, the cheese broker Alvah Reynolds approached Lawrence with a plan to improve the marketing of this new product. He suggested naming the cream cheese after Philadelphia, which at the time was known for its high-quality dairy. Between 2013 and 2020, U.S. sales of Philadelphia Cream Cheese totaled $539 million, according to Dairy Foods Magazine, making it the most popular cream cheese brand in the country.

Although Redditors were shocked to discover the real hometown of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, the brand has been open about it. You can even find references to the historic name change on its website.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese isn’t the only business to have experimented with a few white lies in their branding. The comments were quickly flooded with Redditors sharing similar examples of household names changing their location for marketing purposes.

CurlSagan said: “Similarly, Arizona tea was invented in Brooklyn, NY. The founder just thought that New Yorkers would like the idea of ice-cold tea from some blazing-hot distant desert land.”

LostSoulsAlliance commented: “As I recall, Texas Roadhouse didn’t start in Texas either. Started in Indiana.”

SkullAngel001 wrote: “Actually Häagen-Dazs isn’t even a word or phrase in any European language.

“It’s literally gibberish that has been marketed as a premium ice cream brand (on top of it being created in ‘Murica).”

All three stories are true. AriZona Iced Tea started in New York in 1992, but activists “boycotted” the brand in 2010 in response to an immigration law passed in the state. The brand released a statement at the time saying “despite the wonderful success AriZona has enjoyed throughout the United States and internationally, we have remained loyal to our family run business based in New York.”

The Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain’s headquarters are in Louisville, Kentucky, with the first-ever branch opening in Clarksville, Indiana in 1993. Häagen-Dazs was created in the Bronx by husband-and-wife entrepreneurs Reuben and Rose Mattus in 1960. The couple were Jewish, Reuben Mattus told journalist and cookbook author Joan Nathan that he gave the product a Danish-sounding name for two reasons—to honor Denmark’s kindness towards Jewish people during World War II and because it sounded more exotic.

He said: “The only country which saved the Jews during World War II was Denmark, so I put together a totally fictitious Danish name and had it registered.

“Häagen-Dazs doesn’t mean anything. [But] it would attract attention, especially with the umlaut.”

Ryan Gould is vice president of strategy and marketing services at Elevation Marketing. Its food and beverage clients include Ball Park hot dogs, Kerry Gold cheese and Goldfish crackers. He said brands that opt for this approach tend to value authenticity and quality, and are hoping to carry forward the culture and heritage of that location with their products. He added that most brands don’t lose authenticity when consumers discover the product’s real origin, but it all depends on the location and image.

“Tying a brand too closely to a location can adversely impact the brand’s ability to grow if it can’t break past its regional appeal, or if the connotative emotions and expectations derived from the geography don’t match buyer expectations of the products,” Gould explained.

“It’s a fine line that requires more than intuition but solid research to ensure the approach won’t limit short-term success or long-term growth opportunities,” he said.

Gould said it’s become less common for food and beverage entrepreneurs to use this tactic, as it can prevent a product from expanding nationally or internationally. Still, adopting a location-based brand name is valuable for local food and beverage services.

Newsweek has contacted u/dansux for comment.

Update 04/12/22, 10:28 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include comment from Ryan Gould.


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