Is burrata overtaking mozzarella to become the most popular Italian cheese?

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Is burrata overtaking mozzarella to become the most popular Italian cheese?
Mozzarella is one of the most popular Italian cheeses in Italy and abroad, but some producers say burrata is now a more popular product. AFP PHOTO / MARIO LAPORTA (Photo by MARIO LAPORTA / AFP)

Mozzarella has long been Italy's most famous soft cheese, but producers now say burrata has overtaken it after becoming a favourite among international chefs.


Mozzarella cheese has for years been one of the best-known and most popular Italian foods worldwide - as symbolic of the national cuisine as spaghetti or tiramisu.

But there’s a surprising shift taking place, as burrata, a soft, white cheese often similar in shape and size to mozzarella but with a delicate, cream-filled centre, now appears to be overtaking it in popularity both in Italy and abroad.

Burrata is now the most popular Italian cheese in Italy, Spain, France and the UK, according to one survey by international restaurant booking platform TheFork.

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Their research looked at the number of online searches for keywords related to Italian dairy products over the past 12 months in these four countries, and in all cases burrata came ahead of mozzarella. 

In Italy, burrata was the fifth most popular search term, with mozzarella coming seventh, the study found.

Burrata cheese can be a similar shape and size to mozzarella, but its soft, creamy centre has converted many international chefs. Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash

This trend mirrored the controversial findings of the TasteAtlas World Atlas of Traditional Cuisine earlier in 2023, which placed eight Italian cheeses in the world's top ten, with burrata in third place and mozzarella (specifically mozzarella di bufala campana DOP) in seventh.

This ranking drew international attention after its publication in February - particularly in France, as no French cheeses at all were included in the top ten.


The rising popularity of burrata in Italy and abroad means producers are now rushing to increase their production capacity, according to Italian news reports.

Burrata is produced in the southern Italian region of Puglia, which has held the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) designation for the cheese since 2016.

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The Deliziosa cheese company in Noci, in the province of Bari, has recently invested €10 million into installing four new burrata production and packaging lines, set to double production capacity by the summer of 2024, according to newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The company says burrata already surpasses mozzarella in terms of turnover, accounting for half of its €126 million revenue in 2022. 

A significant portion of this production is destined for international markets, with exports making up approximately 40 percent.

Company owner Giovanni D'Ambruoso says burrata’s rise to international fame began in 2017 as more producers travelled to international food fairs such as those in Cologne and Paris.


"I remember that when we went to Cologne in 2015, the only burrata was ours; from 2017 onwards, everyone had it. I would say that burrata became international six years ago."

He says international chefs had also "helped us a lot in promoting burrata by using it in many dishes abroad."

However, producers warn that this international recognition has inspired the creation of “imitation” burrata, as already happens with mozzarella, when similar-looking products are made outside of the IGP area or even outside of Italy.

"There are more and more imitative foreign products that evoke burrata," states Francesco Mennea, director of the Consorzio di Tutela della Burrata di Andria IGP, the protection consortium for burrata in the province of Andria.

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In Puglia, both burrata and mozzarella are traditionally made by hand, and local producers say this is what sets the IGP product apart.

“Now that everyone is producing burrata, in Italy and abroad, we are trying to make a difference by still making it by hand. We only need machines for the post-production stage,” D’Ambruoso says.

The growing trade in counterfeit versions of Italian food and drink - from imitation prosecco to 'parma' ham - was worth 120 billion euros in 2023, according to farmers' association Coldiretti.


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