Israel’s largest food manufacturer is aiming for success in the U.S. via the dairy case.
While 90-year-old dairy company Tnuva has imported its products to the U.S. for years, they have served predominantly as niche brands in kosher retailers.
This month, however, Tnuva is launching Muuna, a brand with mainstream aspirations in the suddenly-heating-up cottage cheese market.
Tnuva had been considering how to approach the U.S. market for years, Muuna CEO Gerard Meyer told Project NOSH, and after much research decided to take on the cottage cheese set.
“Cottage cheese is huge in Israel, it’s kind of like yogurt is here but even more so. On a per capita basis, it’s just massive,” Meyer said. “[Tnuva] saw this category that is still relatively large but still kind of stagnant and declining…There was this perception that cottage cheese was a boring and bland diet food in the seventies and no one tried to change that perception.”
The company’s edge, Meyer said, is a proprietary technology for producing a cottage cheese with a small curd and a creamier texture that melts in the mouth.
That technology is about all that Tnuva is exporting to the U.S. Muuna has its own U.S. team of roughly a dozen employees, is manufactured domestically, is incorporated in Delaware and has distinctly domestic flavors.
While in Israel, cottage cheese is more of a savory product, Munna is launching with six flavors, including strawberry, blueberry, peach and plain. Those flavors echo the products coming out of other new cottage cheese companies like Good Culture, which recently received investment from food giant General Mills.
Both brands seem to be focusing on the higher-protein aspects of cottage cheese, a category that manufacturers hope may follow yogurt into the more profitable pastures.
Meyer, the former president of Sodastream — also an Israeli-owned company — has also worked at Merck, Campbell’s, Kraft and B&G Foods. He said Muuna is aiming for mainstream consumers and not the Whole Foods diehard. While the line is free of artificial colors, preservatives and sweeteners, it’s not organic or grass fed.
One thing the brand is leaving behind is the Tnuva moniker: Muuna, a made-up name, sounds more American, according to Meyer.
The product launched in ShopRite and Shaw’s and soon will be in roughly 17 other retail chains from Philadelphia to Boston. The company plans to slowly roll out the line across the nation over the next year and a half, and also start to focus on other dairy line extensions.
For now though, Meyer says, the company is focused on cottage cheese alone. “I’m happy if people look at us and say, cottage cheese, wow!”