‘Diamond in the rough’: Moon Cheese takes cheese snacks to new level

By Kristine Sherred

- Last updated on GMT

The unique drying process sucks out 60% of the cheese's moisture content, rendering a highly poppable, pure-cheese snack. Pic: Moon Cheese
The unique drying process sucks out 60% of the cheese's moisture content, rendering a highly poppable, pure-cheese snack. Pic: Moon Cheese

Related tags EnWave Cheese Cheese puffs Snacks healthy snacking New product development Innovation keto Protein Brand management

NutraDried Food Company uses a proprietary vacuum technology to create a puff made only from cheese.

Moon Cheese is a bite-sized snack that uses Radiant Energy Vacuum (REV) developed by food technologist firm EnWave Corporation at its facility in the northwestern corner of Washington State.

EnWave recently embarked on a deal with Calbee​, Japan’s largest snack producer, to develop a series of snacks made through REV.

In its second-quarter earnings report, EnWave credited ‘increased sales and distribution’ of Moon Cheese for its record growth. The company’s revenue jumped 110% to $8.7m, from $4.1m in the first quarter of 2019.

Moon Cheese is the first of what will likely be a series of single- or limited-ingredient clean-label snacks in the NutraDried family. It is the “ultimate proof of concept,”​ NutraDried CEO Mike Pytlinski told BakeryandSnacks.

NutraDried intends to continue working with EnWave in testing the unique drying process “to produce innovative snack products that meet the evolving dietary preferences of consumers.”

Moon Cheese meets a variety of allergen and dietary needs because of its simple ingredients list: cheese, and in the case of its cheddar flavor, annatto (for color). Other flavors include gouda and pepperjack. The snacks are also gluten-free and keto-friendly.

Pytlinski insisted, though, that Moon Cheese goes ‘beyond’ a one-diet trend.

“We can have a foot in both; it’s not an either/or,” ​he said.

The drying technique removes about 60% of the cheese’s moisture content, which ‘crunchifies’ the snack without drying it out.

“What we bring is the marriage of the qualities”​ of protein and ‘poppability.’

The resulting snack is neither crisp nor puff, neither baked nor fried. Nor is it freeze-dried, which dampens the color and flavor of the base ingredient. Rather, it is a randomly shaped piece of cheese, chopped off a 30-pound block – dried in a sort of ‘microwave inside a vacuum,’ explained Pytlinski.

NutraDried believes it has ‘a diamond in the rough’ on its hands – a one-of-a-kind snack that meets a variety of dietary demands and consumer trends.

The company suggests the irregular shaped crisps to be consumed as a snack, as well as a topping for salads, soups or pasta. They can also be mixed into batters.

Taking the tech abroad

The brand has ‘exploded’ in the past year, said Pytlinski, with US grocers from Publix and Costco to Whole Foods and Target latching onto it. Starbucks also stocks it in nearly all of its US and Canadian locations.

Meanwhile, NutraDried has also benefited from purveying its technology across the food sector – to the likes of Calbee, the US Army and large European dairy producer Friesland Campina. It has also gained notoriety through deals with burgeoning legal cannabis suppliers, especially in Canada, which legalized recreational marijuana last October.

NutraDried recently hired Joseph Spinazola as senior VP of sales to enhance distribution of its signature snack and to develop new flavors and potentially new products. He has worked for more than 30 years in sales and leadership positions at several CPG companies, such as PepsiCo, Unilever and most recently Moodwater, an alkaline-enhanced water brand based in Canada.

Speaking to us at Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago last month, Spinazola said new products and other significant changes were forthcoming – including a brand redesign – but declined to divulge further details.

Related topics Manufacturers Cheese