- Schuman Cheese of Fairfield, N.J., is debuting an on-package seal that the company refers to as the industry’s first “trust mark,” according to Food Business News. It signals that the company made the product only with milk, cultures, salt and enzymes in addition to proper aging methods.
- The company introduced the new "True Cheese" seal as a way consumers can more easily verify the product’s quality and manufacturing integrity, following reports of adulteration and fraud in certain cheese segments.
- Schuman will print the new mark on its cheeses and snacks sold in supermarkets and mass retailers, and it will be phased in over time.
Earlier this year, another cheese company pled guilty to "aiding and abetting the introduction of adulterated and misbranded cheese products into interstate commerce" — specifically "100% Parmesan" that actually contained wood pulp masked as the grated cheese. That case led to the discovery of how prevalent it is for manufacturers to use fillers and starches beyond permissible levels and without proper labeling in certain cheese segments.
This has left many cheese companies scrambling to find a solution to the increasing assumption that the vast majority of these products contain unwanted filler ingredients. But extensive label claims often crowd product label real estate, which can cause confusion for consumers.
Claims could also be unverifiable and less trusted, such as undefined terms like "natural." Manufacturers then often turn to third-party certifications. That could be an agency like the USDA, such as for certified organic products, or a company like Schuman’s partner, Covance Food Solutions, the Non-GMO Project or NSF International.
Schuman believes in the legitimacy the trust mark brings to its cheeses in an otherwise misunderstood industry. However, it’s unclear how consumers will interpret this mark once they find out the company itself has been involved in its creation.
Schuman Cheese CEO Neal Schuman told Food Business News that the company would launch a consumer and trade education program to promote awareness and understanding of the mark. But until more education is readily available, adding still more unfamiliar label claims could confuse consumers more than help them.