Henning’s Cheese’s flavored cheese lineup includes everything from Mango Fire Cheddar to Bacon Fest Cheddar and Louisiana Lagniappe Cheddar to Bourbon Cask Cheddar, said Rebekah Henschel, co-owner.

The company’s flavored lineup has undergone quite an evolution in recent years.

“Years ago, we started with simple ingredients like garlic, sun dried tomatoes, onion and dill,” Henschel said. “Now we work with ingredients like crab boil liquid, bourbon, tequila, dill pickles, olives and dried fruit.”

Kerry Henning, Henning’s Master Cheese Maker, is constantly coming up with new ideas for flavored varieties, she added.

Because Henning is always adding new flavors to its lineup, the company has had to put some of its slower-moving flavors on hold to make room for newer ones.

The company current flavored lineup, Henschel said, includes a good balance of original creations like Garlic & Dill Cheddar and Tomato Basil Cheddar and newer ones like Simply Strawberry Cheddar and Maple Bourbon Cheddar.

Top sellers include Hatch Chile Cheddar, Mango Fire Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar, Blueberry Cobbler Cheddar & Garlic & Dill Cheddar, all of which have been around for a few years.

“Mango Fire Cheddar and Blueberry Cobbler Cheddar were some of the more innovative flavors of their time,” Henschel said. “Kerry really started stepping outside of the realms of normal flavors.”

Mango Fire Cheddar is infused with spicy habanero peppers and sweet mango, a perfect combination given the current craze for sweet heat.

“I love this cheese on anything Mexican, burgers, in corn dip or paired with a margarita,” Henschel said.

Blueberry Cobbler Cheddar, meanwhile, infuses a traditional cheddar with sweet blueberries and cobbler, a perfect sweet and salty dessert cheese. Henning’s recommends it on grilled cheese, dipped in chocolate, shredded in scones or paired with shortbread cookies.

Mango Fire Cheddar, Chipotle Cheddar & Hatch Chile Cheddar have all won awards at the World Cheese Championship Contest, and Chipotle Cheddar  took home a gold at the American Cheese Society contest in 2023 and was recently named a top 60 cheese from across the globe in Culture magazine.

Demand for flavored cheeses is definitely on the rise, Henschel said.

People want an “experience,” she said, and flavored cheeses are perfect for that. Henning’s encourages its customers to use their flavored cheeses to transform their favorite dishes.

Try, for instance, Mango Fire Cheddar on tacos, Mediterranean Sunset Cheddar in lasagna or Peppercorn Cheddar in an egg bake.

Recently, Henschel has been experimenting with shredding Louisiana Lagniappe Cheddar on chicken alfredo pizza she makes at home.

Local focus 

One of the things that separates Henning’s from some of its competitors is its use of locally produced milk.

The company sources from small local family dairy farmers that are within a 30-mile radius of its facility, Henschel said.

“We then take that great milk and craft our cheese using traditional methods from years ago. Our goal is to craft some of the best tasting cheese on the market. Kerry has his Master Cheese Making license in Cheddar, Colby and Monterey Jack.”

Starting with a great tasting cheese, she added, is a must before you can add spices or flavors to it to make a great flavored cheese. At that point, it helps a lot to have a flavor expert, a title Henning has earned, Henschel said.

 “He understands how to balance the spices and flavors so that you can still taste the cheese, which is extremely important. The spices and flavors should enhance the cheese, not kill it.”

Heat stays hot

The spicy pepper trend in flavored cheeses continues to gain momentum, Henschel said.

Henning’s has many options when it comes to heat. The company’s Chipotle Cheddar, for instance, has a mild, smoky heat, whereas its Dragon’s Breath Cheddar, Habanero Jack and Blazing Buffalo Cheddar “bring a little more fire to your mouth,” Henschel said.

Even with its spicy cheeses, Henning’s believes it’s important to balance the heat with the flavors of the cheeses.

“We still want you to be able to taste the great tasting cheese, and the heat should accentuate it,” Henschel said. “We’ve been asked by customers to work with hotter peppers. This becomes challenging because we have open tables and hotter peppers become difficult to work with when they evaporate into the air.”

And, she added, if the pepper is too hot, it’s hard to taste the cheese.

This article is an excerpt from the April 2024 issue of Supermarket Perimeter. You can read the entire Flavored Cheese feature and more in the digital edition here.