Instead of sticking to plain cheddar or gouda, the WMMB reports that Americans have taken a liking to adding a spicy or fruity taste to their cheese.
"This recent trend reflects the growth of the hispanic population," Marilyn Wilkinson, a spokesperson for the WMMB, told FoodNavigatorUSA.com.
In total, specialty cheese production showed an eight percent increase in Wisconsin in 2003 compared to the previous year, said the WMMB, noting that 2004 is on track for another increase.
Wilkinson explained that there has been a move towards adding hot ingredients such as chili peppers or chile chipotle, a smoked dried Jalapeno, to cheeses that are not known for their strong flavors, like gouda or some of the milder cheddars.
Wisconsin, which produces 26 percent of US-made Hispanic cheeses, boasts a wide variety including Asadero, Anejo Enchilado, Queso Fresco, Cotija and Queso Quesadilla.
But, Wilkinson noted that manufacturers are not only adding spicy numbers to their cheeses. With Christmas approaching she pointed out that one favorite is cranberries or herbs added to white cheddar.
She noted that cheeses with added ingredients are "flavorsome as an out-of-hand cheese" and convenient to cook with.
A speciality among the latino community in Miami is to "eat Dutch cheeses, such as edam, with fruit pastes".
Although these cheeses often start life as ethnic cheeses sold in markets, most soon make their way into restaurants and supermarkets and therefore become more of a mainstream product.
One of the latest value-added cheeses to be launched, according to Wilkinson, is the Merlot cheddar.
"Manufacturers have been adding wine to spreads for a long time, but now they are starting to add it to blocks of cheese," she said.
A further consumer trend of which manufacturers should be aware of for 2005, according to the WMMB, is washed rind cheeses, namely varieties that require rubbing the rind with a brine, beer, cider, wine or other solution to develop its flavor. The organization suggests coatings such as paprika or cinnamon will be leading the pack next year.
Cheese in general in currently winning more favor with Americans than it has in the past. The WMMB noted that the country has increased its per capita consumption of cheese from 23 pounds in 1985 to 31 pounds in 2003. Analysts forecast that by 2013 this figure will have reached 33 pounds.