Find out how Cheez-It® & Pandora® created the first-ever sonically aged cheese snack

In honor of the new crackers, SiriusXM recently sat down with Steve Keller, an Emmy Award winner and Sonic Strategy Director for Studio Resonate who worked on the project.

by:
Matt Simeone
June 1, 2022

It’s time to pump up the volume and get that cheeseCheez-It x Pandora® Aged by Audio cheese!

After stumbling on an obscure Swiss study that found aging cheese to hip-hop music could change the strength and smell, Cheez-It® teamed up with Pandora® to create the limited-edition Cheez-It x Pandora® Aged by Audio crackers, introduced by SiriusXM host Sway Calloway and available on CheezItHQ.com.

Cheez-It enlisted the help of the music and sonic experts at Pandora to find hip-hop songs with similar attributes to those from the original Swiss study in an attempt to create the first-ever sonically aged snack made with 100% real cheese – aged to music by iconic hip-hop artists. Fans can also access the Aged by Audio mixtape via a link to Pandora on CheezItHQ.com, or directly on the Pandora app and Pandora.com.

How’d They Do It?

Steve Keller

In honor of the new crackers and playlist, SiriusXM recently sat down with Steve Keller — the award-winning Sonic Strategy Director for Studio Resonate who worked on the six-and-a-half-month project — to take us behind the scenes of the experiment, describe the taste of the sonically aged cheese, dive deeper into why they selected hip-hop music, and more.

“This is another example of how the power of sound shapes our perception,” Keller told us. “If sound can change cheese, then it can also have an impact on humans — our health, wellness and behavior.”

The 2019 Swiss study compared the effects of exposing cheese to a variety of different music tracks during the aging process. The researchers found that the cheese aged to a hip-hop track exhibited a stronger aroma and taste. Cheez-It and Pandora reenacted this experiment at the Brewster Cheese production facility in Rupert, ID, by aging the brand’s iconic 100% natural cheese to the tune of Pandora’s specially curated era-spanning hip-hop playlist. The tracks used in the experiment were chosen based on how well they matched the tempo and frequency profile of the hip-hop track used in the Swiss study.

Four contain­ers of cheese were readied for the aging process, with four transducers affixed to a wooden platform placed on top of the aging containers (as seen in the video and images below). As the hip-hop tracks were played through the transducers, the sound vibrations from the transducers permeated the cheese. The cheese in the containers were stored in an aging warehouse for six months (a duration chosen by the cheesemeisters), with the music continuously playing on a loop all the while. Additionally, a few containers of cheese were set aside to be aged without the music stimulus, so that it could be used as a “control” when comparing the effects of the Aged by Audio experiment.

Six and a half months later, the containers were shipped to Battle Creek, MI, where participants engaged in a blind taste test at the Kellogg’s Institute for Food and Nutrition Research, featuring the sonically and non-sonically aged cheeses, as well as Cheez-It crackers made from both cheeses. The panelists in the taste test all noticed a distinct difference in the aroma, flavor and finish of the sonically aged cheese and Cheez-It, compared to the control.

“The consistency of the panelist descriptions of the differences in the cheese aroma and taste were remarkable,” Keller said.

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Why Hip-Hop?

When cheese ages, micro-organisms and bacteria grow, and it’s these organisms that ultimately contribute to the texture, aroma and flavor of the cheese. Researchers believe it’s the impact of the sound vibrations, rather than a specific musical genre, that have an effect on the micro-organisms’ development. Hip-hop is an ideal choice to produce consistent vibrations at specific frequencies.

“While we might enjoy listening to classical music, rock and pop, those genres of music can be too dynamic in both arrangements and rhythmic content to produce the desired vibrational effects,” Keller said.

Though Keller had fun with this cheesy experiment, the research does have practical implications. “This is another example of the power sound can exert in shaping our perception and behavior” Keller told us. “If sound vibrations can have an impact on micro-organisms and bacteria in cheese as it ages, then it’s not a leap to infer that vibrations produced by sound can have an impact on humans, too — including our health, wellness and behavior.”

So, in addition to changing the rap game, Kendrick Lamar just might be responsible for changing the flavor of cheese.

Bump Pandora’s Aged by Audio mixtape — featuring Kendrick and many more hip-hop greats — which will make you feel anything but cheesy.

“Sound Decisions”

Now that the experiment is over, Keller expects the new Cheez-It x Pandora Aged by Audio crackers to sell out, and hopes that his work might inspire similar experiments that will contribute to the common good.

“Blending sound science and sound art can be fun,” Keller concluded, “but my hope is that it contributes to making ‘sound decisions’ as well.”

But don’t just take Keller’s word for it. With the Cheez-It x Pandora Aged by Audio crackers about to hit the market, you be the judge!

Wait… There’s More

Additionally, join Sway Calloway in celebrating the launch of Cheez-It x Pandora Aged by Audio with the release of his exclusive new YouTube series,Living Legendz.” The new series features interviews with hip-hop icons who’ve changed the industry, providing their thoughts on how hip-hop music has impacted the world – not just our cheese. Tune in on Calloway’s YouTube, Instagram and Twitter channels to hear from hip-hop’s very own “Living Legendz.”

“This collaboration is the perfect mix of my favorite things: hip-hop music, wild innovation and Cheez-It,” said Calloway. “Hip-hop has influenced many lives, so I’m looking forward to seeing if fans can taste the effect of the most beloved genre of music in the world on these crackers.”

For the ultimate tasting experience, Cheez-It is offering a free 90-day Pandora Premium trial offer to eligible customers with the purchase of the limited-edition Cheez-It x Pandora Aged by Audio product. Plus, super-snackers can earn free shipping by adding optional Cheez-It branded swag – from headphones to new bucket hats to crewneck sweatshirts and t-shirts.



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