Much of that growth had taken place in cheeses outside of what the USDA classifies as "American" types: colby, jack cheeses, and cheddar cheese (with apologies to the English village of Cheddar, where the popular cheese was actually born). Consumption of mozzarella — which is in the USDA's "Italian type" catogory — has exploded in recent decades, beating cheddar for the last six years.
Some of the growth in mozzarella is due to increased demand for pizza. The pizza industry was worth almost $40 billion in the United States last year, approximately 25 percent more than a decade ago, according to data compiled each year by Pizza Magazine. So while cheddar has plateaued, we're living in a mozzarella Renaissance.
"There have been developments in mozzarella production," said John Newton, director of market intelligence at the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents agricultural producers. "Some of the bigger cheese companies have made mozzarella cheeses that can be frozen and reheated but still have the same stretch and feel."
Those changes have made it easier to make better cheese-laden frozen products like the gourmet pizza brands that now populate U.S. freezer aisles, said Newton.