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Philadelphia Cream Cheese was never from Philly. So why do we call it that?

Philadelphia Cream Cheese was never really “from” Philly. But with the city on an upswing, the brand name now has more positive associations than it once did.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese.
Philadelphia Cream Cheese.Read moreKraft Heinz Company (custom credit)

As brand names go, Philadelphia Cream Cheese couldn’t be more misleading: It has never been a local product.

But the name has certainly given that impression over the years. Recently, a reader wrote to Curious Philly, the Inquirer’s platform where readers can ask our journalists questions, wondering whether it’s actually made here.

Philadelphia Cream Cheese was invented in New York in 1872, according to the Kraft Heinz Co., and got its name in 1880 as part of a marketing strategy to associate the product with the high-quality food and dairy farming for which the Philadelphia area was known at the time.

More than a century later, Philly is again considered a food mecca, and the iconic brand has endured. Philadelphia continues to dominate the United States cream cheese industry with a market share of more than 60 percent in recent years, according to reports by market data firms. Different varieties of Philadelphia occupy four of the top five best-selling slots for cream cheese available on Amazon. Look up cream cheese on Wikipedia, and the entry is illustrated with a tub of Philadelphia.

Jeff Jubelirer, a public relations strategist who has been working in Philadelphia for two decades, said the company’s staying power is particularly impressive, considering that most grocery stores now sell their own generic brands of cream cheese.

“Is Philadelphia really better than the Wegmans store brand, or other kinds?” Jubelirer asked. “But people will still pay more for it, and there’s a reason for that."

Jubelirer said it was a better time than ever for any brand to be affiliated with the city, noting the thriving restaurant scene and such high-visibility events as the 2015 visit by the pope, the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and of course the Eagles’ 2018 Super Bowl win.

“To be aligned with the city now is seen as better than 20 years ago, I believe," Jubelirer said. "And I think there’s a very proud feeling of being from here.”

“Philadelphia is on a bit of a roll,” he added. “No pun intended."