There’s only one cream cheese brand for me.
a woman shopping at a grocery store
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When I go grocery shopping, I tend to look not at the brand, but instead at the ingredients and the price. A lot of the time, generic-brand groceries are of comparable quality to many popular name brands, and they're usually at a lower price point.

Honestly, I've probably tried every generic brand "alternative" for almost all of my usual groceries, and for my uses, they typically hold up to their pricier counterparts. There's not a lot of flashy logos in my fridge or cabinet because there's usually no need to pay more for these products.

But there's one product that I bought generically before, and I'll never skip my favorite name brand again if I can help it. And that is cream cheese, specifically Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Not only are they the original block as they invented cream cheese in 1872, but in my opinion, it cannot be replaced with generic. The flavor and texture of the generic brands are way off, and it once ruined a cheesecake that I was baking.

I'm from the Philadelphia region, so it may seem like I'm judging a book by its cover. But the simple ingredients in Philadelphia Cream Cheese gives it its classic flavor: pasteurized milk and cream, salt and cheese culture. All of these ingredients together give the cream cheese its iconic thick and creamy taste. And while Philadelphia uses one type of gum as a stabilizer, the generic brand competitors stack multiple thickeners and gums in an attempt to mimic that same texture. It's not the same as the Philadelphia block we know and love.

I can even tell the difference when I'm ordering cream cheese elsewhere. As a New Jersey native, bagels have a cultural significance. My go-to order is a classic everything bagel with a layer of cream cheese so thick that it can barely be handled. When I order this at a local bagel shop, I'll take one bite into it and can instantly tell if I'm getting the cool, rich flavor of Philadelphia or the lackluster taste of something generic.

When it's Philadelphia brand, the bagel just becomes a vessel for the cream cheese. And the texture makes the perfect cheesecake that generic brands can't compete with.

I usually go for the less expensive option when it comes to buying groceries, but for cream cheese, I'm willing to pay the price for the best on the market.