Grilled cheese is an American staple with a cult-like following of loyal fans. It is often considered a classic meal, but for many Americans, it's an opportunity to experiment and get creative with food, but just how creative? A recent national survey conducted in honor of April's National Grilled Cheese Month by Sara Lee, makers of Artesano bread, revealed nationwide preferences when it comes to the beloved cheesy sandwich. The data uncovered that there are not only two sides to a grilled cheese sandwich (literally) but also two sides to grilled cheese enthusiasts — those who prefer the cheesy sandwich in its simplest form (only bread and cheese) and those who are willing to get creative with their ingredients.
For many Americans, dubbed the "Traditionalists," the sandwich is best left as is with a classic cheese variety between two slices of timeless white bread. For others, in more of the "Adventurists" camp, there is no limit to grilled cheese ingredient experimentation. In fact, the survey uncovered that those with blonde hair are most likely to try new ingredients in their sandwiches — 82 percent of blonde Americans surveyed said they'd prefer more than just cheese on their grilled cheese sandwiches, compared to only 67 percent of brunettes.
"No matter which side you fall on, an overwhelming 89 percent of respondents agreed that the great thing about grilled cheese is that it can always be a little different, meaning consumers can customize their sandwiches in a way that's unique to their individual tastes," said Ben Buch, brand manager for Sara Lee bread. "Artesano bread serves as the perfect canvas to whatever grilled cheese creation you're craving this National Grilled Cheese Month, whether it has surprising ingredients or just a classic take with cheese."
To celebrate National Grilled Cheese Month in April, and National Grilled Cheese Day on April 12, Sara Lee has partnered with MacKenzie Smith, creator of Grilled Cheese Social, to test the limits of consumers' love for the iconic sandwich by creating new grilled cheese recipes inspired by the survey results using Artesano bread, which was recently named 2017's best specialty bread by Product of the Year. Sara Lee's survey, which was conducted online with 2,030 U.S. consumers age 18+, unveiled the following findings about these two, equally passionate types of grilled cheese lovers:
Fifty-five percent of those surveyed can be classified as grilled cheese Traditionalists, meaning there's only one kind of cheese for them, with the survey finding the two most popular cheese options are American or cheddar. More than a quarter of Americans feel a grilled cheese should be kept to just the main ingredients — bread and cheese, and nothing more — but if these purists had to choose additional fillings, they would most likely include tomato (39%), bacon (38%), ham/pork (32%), or eggs (22%).
The grilled cheese Adventurists are the ones who are up for a thrill-seeking sandwich experience. In fact, the survey uncovered that almost two-thirds of Americans would eat a "mystery" grilled cheese without having a clue what's inside or even what type of cheese is included, and it's more likely that these Adventurists are blondes. More than one in five respondents will put onions on their grilled cheese sandwich (22%), and almost that amount will include pickles or avocado, while one in ten will include apples. The write-in fillings, however, were where the true Adventurists really shined. Their "something else" grilled cheese accompaniments included everything from mayonnaise or mustard, to tuna, sauerkraut, peanut butter or jelly/chutney. Additionally, 17 percent of respondents prefer a mix of cheeses as the core of their sandwiches.
"I'm definitely a grilled cheese Adventurist, and I love that I represent my fellow risk-taking blondes well," said Smith, a sandwich expert and social media foodie who founded Grilled Cheese Social, a popular food blog for grilled cheese enthusiasts. "I'm always mixing it up, and trying out new recipes and fresh ways to put a twist on grilled cheese. The PBJ & Cheese is definitely one of my favorites, but the Rainbow Grilled Cheese is a fun take on the classic grilled cheese sandwich, and I think the colorful twist really encourages people to experiment with their food and try new things."