Restaurant research shows that in an effort to differentiate themselves from the cheesy marketplace, chains have opted for dairy decadence that strays slightly from the norm. That means Pepper Jack has turned into a new mainstream cheese.
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While cheddar, sharp or otherwise, is well-known and well-eaten, Monterey Jack (a mild semi-hard cheese) has struggled to find a major foothold on its own, most often mixed with cheddar’s cousin, Colby, to form Colby Jack cheese. But pairing the mildness with peppery spice yields Pepper Jack, a cheese with a kick that isn’t too assaulting on the palette — an Americanized spice, shall we say.
USA Today reports that market-research firm Datassential found fast-food chains have increased their offerings of Pepper Jack by 37% over the past four years, including a 56% increase of the cheese’s use on burgers. Blimpie, Carl’s Jr., Kraft, Kellogg (Cheez-Its) and even Blue Diamond (Pepper Jack Nut Thins) have jumped on the pepper wagon, offering a range of products with the newest cheesy sensation.
As flavor creators continue to find new appealing tastes and Southwestern-themed menus take hold, there may yet be more room for Pepper Jack cheese on our plates. At least they don’t color it orange.