Consumer Preference for Sharp Cheddar Cheese Flavor Influenced by Where They Live or What Tastes Good

July 28, 2009


Chicago – Why consumers buy cheddar cheese labeled as sharp may not be related to the sharp flavor but may have more to do with brand association with a specific taste or regional labeling.  Consumers’ location may sometimes influence preference for sharp cheddar cheese flavor, but basically they buy what tastes good to them, according to an article in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists.

In the study conducted by North Carolina State University, nine cheddar cheeses were selected and evaluated by consumers in three regional locations: east coast, the Midwest and west coast.  Flavor profiles of 29 sharp cheddar cheeses were documented by descriptive sensory analysis with a trained panel.  Consumers assessed the cheeses for overall liking and other attributes. 

“Consumers in different regions are exposed to different commodities and manufacturers,” says lead researcher M. A. Drake. “Commercially labeled ‘aged’ and ‘sharp’ cheddar cheese may vary widely in ripening time and flavor properties. As such there may be regional differences in consumer flavor likes and dislikes.”

Drake and his colleagues found the following:

  • A larger number of consumers from the west coast liked cheddar cheeses with broth-like and nutty flavors compared to consumers from other regions;
  • While there were some regional differences in cheese brand purchase, regional source had no location effect in blind tasting scores for overall liking;
  • All consumers liked both orange and white cheddar cheeses;
  • There was no preference for sharp cheddar cheeses made in the same region as the consumers.

“Our results suggest that consumer location may influence preference for sharp cheddar cheese flavor but these differences are not as important as the general liking or preference cluster that defines these consumers,” says Drake. “Sharp cheddar cheese consumers buy what they like, regardless of the label.”

To receive a copy of the study please contact Jeannie Houchins at

EDITOR’S NOTE: This study was funded by Dairy Management Inc.


About IFT
The Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) exists to advance the science of food. Our long-range vision is to ensure a safe and abundant food supply contributing to healthier people everywhere. Founded in 1939, IFT is a nonprofit scientific society with 20,000 individual members working in food science, food technology, and related professions in industry, academia, and government. IFT champions the use of sound science across the food value chain through knowledge sharing, education, and advocacy, encouraging the exchange of information, providing both formal and informal educational opportunities, and furthering the advancement of the profession. IFT has offices in Chicago, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. For additional information, please visit

Jeannie Houchins, MA, RD