Whole Foods Market is expecting.
When Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle welcome their new baby, the American grocer will celebrate with a commemorative Westminster Royal Mark red cheddar cheese, which it’s cleverly calling “Royal Addition.” Whole Foods describes the cheese, which is produced in Southwest England, as tangy and creamy, with a slightly sweet and nutty finish.
“Cheddar is one of the most popular cheeses in both the U.K. and the U.S. and this rustic English cheese embodies the cultures of both the Duke and Duchess–just like the royal baby!” a Whole Foods press release explained. This is not the first cheese celebrating a royal arrival. Somerdale, the British cheese exporter that includes the Westminster cheddars in its portfolio, also made a special one-year aged cheddar to celebrate the birth of Prince George in 2014 and Prince Louis in 2018. Princess Charlotte, it seems, did not warrant a commemorative cheddar.
And that “vibrant orange” hue? It’s a nod to Prince Harry’s status as perhaps the world’s most famous ginger. “[T]he Royal Mark cheese uses tropical fruit pulp annatto to give the cheese a unique, vibrant orange hue, to match Prince Harry’s signature hair,” the Whole Foods press release stated.
The use of annatto, a common food coloring made from the pulp of achiote, which is grown in South and Central America, is not unusual. Royal Mark along with many other cheeses—including the mild British cheese called Red Leicester, and American cheddars from Wisconsin, New York, and Oregon—depend on it for their coloration.
Cheese and butter makers have long used carrot peels and other natural coloring agents during the winter months to make their wares more visually appealing. Depending on what cows eat, their milk ranges in color from white to rich yellow, a natural, seasonal variation when they graze on grass. The deeper hue comes from a higher percent of fresh green fodder.
The practice took a slightly nefarious turn in 17th century Britain, when cheesemakers realized that if they skimmed cream from their milk, they could still produce cheese, albeit a less flavorful one, while also profiting from selling the cream or making butter with it. The one visible tell was that the fatty cream carried the yellow-orange hue, and the low-fat cheeses left behind literally paled in comparison to the original recipes. To keep profits up, and buyers none-the-wiser, cheesemakers used marigold petals, saffron, and carrots to give the low-fat cheese a healthier glow.
Orange is no longer the color of fraudulence, at least when it comes to cheese. Cheddar producers in Vermont may look askance at the showy apricot hue of a New York cheddar, but a cheese’s color is no longer an indicator of flavor or creaminess.
Markle, by the way, is on the record as an orange cheese lover of sorts.
“What I do really happen to lovvvvve is that boxed macaroni and cheese,” she told the lifestyle site Eyeswoon in 2017. “I now buy the Annie’s organic one if I’m craving it, but I throw some frozen peas into it and have this gooey simple childlike meal. I used to cook it for the kids I would babysit and I always enjoyed feeling like a kid and eating it with them.”