Why Is Velveeta So Expensive? [Plus Cheap Alternatives]

Ahh, Velveeta. The all-American creamy classic likely conjures up fond memories of childhood. It’s a cheese brand that everyone recognizes by name, but did you know that Velveeta isn’t real cheese at all?

But it is a processed cheese product made using milk product, whey, and elements of cheese. The household name has been around since 1923 and became part of the Kraft Foods family in 1927, earning its place in history along the way. 

Velveeta is expensive because it’s an ever-popular, high-demand processed cheese product that requires several ingredients to produce. Velveeta also markets itself as a convenience brand and uses easy-to-use packaging for its products which adds to its overall cost.

Finally, extensive processing, packing, and shipping costs are involved in making the Velveeta product. All of these factors combined are passed along to the end consumer. 

You may likely have your favorite Velveeta recipe that comes to mind whenever the name comes up. Nachos, grilled cheese, queso, mac and cheese, baked potatoes, the possibilities are endless with Velveeta.

But there are reasons behind why you may be spending more money on this savory product. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the reasons why consumers all over the globe shell out more dough for Velveeta than regular, authentic cheese products. 

Cream Cheese

Popularity And Preference

Many consumers today prefer the smooth, creamy texture of Velveeta to regular cheese and are willing to pay a higher price for the cheese alternative. Some cheese lovers find that regular cheese tends to pool oil and gets stringy and grainy when melted.

However, Velveeta gained a reputation as an easy melting cheese due to its creamy consistency, and the brand has gained a loyal following over the years. In 2014, some may remember the infamous “cheesepocalypse” that had the internet buzzing.

The unprecedented event was due to the Velveeta cheese shortage that plagued lovers of the cheese alternative in some Northeastern states like Massachusetts and Maryland right around the Superbowl. Although some claim it was a PR stunt put together by Kraft, it certainly will go down in history for Velveeta lovers either way.

Convenience 

The USDA defines convenience foods as foods that save time in the acquisition, preparation, and clean-up. Consumers can find convenience foods at restaurants or in ready-to-eat packaging in grocery stores. It’s a known fact that consumers do and will pay more for convenience foods, and it helps consumers balance time and money when they turn to them.

Of course, busy parents who don’t have time to prepare elaborate meals for their families find that turning to convenience foods can make their lives easier. Velveeta falls into the convenience category because it is simple to prepare in the microwave or stovetop.

It’s a hit with kids, too, so parents won’t have to worry about their picky-eater when they prepare it for dinner. The website even has a section for quick and easy recipes for busy families. Also, due to the preservatives in the product, Velveeta doesn’t need to be refrigerated. 

Ingredients 

The Kraft company needs to source a long list of raw material ingredients to produce the Velveeta product. The ingredients list includes skim milk, canola oil, MPC (milk protein concentrate), sodium phosphate, whey, and whey protein concentrate, to name a few.

Although the ingredients don’t cost much on their own, they can add up in cost to the end product. By contrast, real cheddar cheese is a simple ingredient list of pasteurized cultured milk, cheese cultures, enzymes, and salt. 

Marketing

The Kraft brand of foods has done a ton of marketing for Velveeta over the years. Velveeta was originally intended to imply to consumers a “velvety-smooth” edible product, and the marketing worked wonders. 

The brand’s most recent marketing slogan coins Velveeta as “Liquid Gold” due to its yellow “gold” color, easy melting capabilities, and savory flavor. So if you have Velveeta in your pantry, you just may have “endless gold at home.”

Packaging

In addition to TV commercials and internet ads, the packaging is another form of marketing that adds to the total product cost. Since Velveeta is a convenience food, the design and engineering behind their packaging also come with convenience in mind.

The individually wrapped, foil-sealed Velveeta fresh packs make it convenient to unwrap and quickly drop into a baked potato or pasta recipe. Their company’s famous “shells and cheese” come with conveniently prepared and individually packaged ingredients and instructions printed right on the packaging.

Their cheese sauce comes in foil pouches to make for easy cooking and clean-up. Unsurprisingly, all of the convenience package engineering and materials add to the cost as well. Packaging Scheme

Processing And Shipping Of The Product 

As with any food, processed or not, a certain amount of labor and workforce is needed to bring the product to consumers. In Velveeta’s case, its highly processed product is factory produced and has more complex processing that adds more to what the consumer pays.

In addition, there is the cost of packing and shipping the product to grocery stores that get tacked to the price you see on the shelves. 

How To Store Velveeta 

To ensure you’re getting the most life out of your Velveeta product, you’ll want to make sure you’re storing it properly. Velveeta is a shelf-stable product.

However, the company recommends keeping unopened Velveeta in a cool, dry place until the date is stamped on the package or when you’re ready to use it. Once opened, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Make sure to use it within eight weeks after opening. 

Velveeta’s Beloved Products

Velveeta had gained immense popularity since its invention back in 1923, and it seemed that many preferred the taste of Velveeta over classic cheese. The product was even advertised as a healthy food for growing kids and pregnant women. 

In Velveeta’s earlier days of the 1950s, they had a much different vision for Velveeta and sold their product in a block to be sliced up and served, but a lot has changed since then. For example, once Kraft introduced their Kraft Singles, they changed the marketing strategy for Velveeta and advertised it more like a sauce or dip to avoid internal competition between the two products. 

Velveeta’s famous shells and cheese debuted in the ’70s, as well as their marketing campaign introducing their renowned queso dip made from Velveeta and Rotel. Since then, football games and tailgate parties have never been the same. Of course, they continue to introduce new and innovative products such as their mini blocks, a simple way to drop Velveeta into your favorite recipes. 

The Brand Today 

A lot has changed in the company’s almost century-long history. For example, Velveeta has since stopped using real cheese in the making of the product, and as you now know, its main ingredients consist of whey, milk protein concentrate, milk, and other preservatives.

In addition, we now know that health experts recommend limiting your intake of processed foods due to the added sugar, sodium, and fat often present in processed food. Velveeta products are currently sold in the US, Canada, Panama, Hong Kong, South Korea, and the Philippines. 

Today, the company isn’t allowed to call itself a cheese product. In 2002 the FDA sent Kraft a warning letter, and Velveeta’s label now reads “pasteurized prepared cheese product.”

Velveeta Alternatives 

Whether you prefer the taste of real cheese or Velveeta, you may be wondering if there are any Velveeta substitutes out there that could save you money. Not only that, but since Velveeta is exceptionally high in sodium and preservatives, it may be a good idea to look for healthier options anyway. 

Real cheese makes a great alternative to Velveeta if you’re looking for a healthier, authentic cheese option. Good Velveeta alternatives include 

Some people may prefer the taste of other processed cheese options such as Cheez Whiz, Eden Cheese, or Easy Cheese, but you still may run into the same price constraint with these pricey alternatives. Not to mention they are packed with preservatives and sodium too. However, if the price isn’t a concern and you want something real, give Kaukauna Spreadable Cheese a try. 

DIY Velveeta Cheese 

If nothing melts like Velveeta for you, and you’re looking for a more authentic version that won’t break the bank, you can always DIY it. Thanks to the 2014 “cheesepocalypse,” a plethora of DIY Velveeta recipes came to be.

Many were put to the test, but it seems the clear winner and most authentic Velveeta taste involves using gelatin combined with real cheddar cheese, dry milk powder, and boiling water.  

Final Thoughts 

Whether you’re a Velveeta fan or not, you may have been surprised to learn how expensive the classic cheese alternative is. But, of course, it’s up to you, based on personal preference and lifestyle choices, if you choose to pay the price for the Velveeta brand.

Regardless, it’s nice to know healthier and less costly alternatives are available when the craving for cheesy goodness hits.  

Leave a Comment