The Italian Company That's Behind Costco's Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Costco shoppers enjoy Kirkland Signature products because they often match the quality of leading brands at a significantly lower price. The megastore's Parmigiano-Reggiano is a prime example of balancing quality and cost. As you may know, Kirkland Signature products often equal popular brands because they are made by top manufacturers.

Costco turns to Formaggi Zanetti for its Parmigiano-Reggiano hard cheese. The affiliation with the Italian brand is noted on the packaging. Formaggi Zanetti has been in the cheese game since its founding as a family company towards the end of the nineteenth century. Five generations later, it is the top exporter of Italian cheese.

Kirkland Signature's connection to such a well-established brand doesn't surprise some cheese connoisseurs. America's Test Kitchen recommends the Parmigiano-Reggiano, noting it has the hallmarks of quality, including the Parmigiano-Reggiano Consortium logo and rind stamp. At nearly half the price of a similar product at Whole Foods, it's especially attractive to home cooks who want the earthy authentic Italian cheese flavor without breaking the bank. 

Why real Parmigiano Reggiano is so pricy

The name Parmigiano-Reggiano is only be applied to hard cheeses made in specific regions of Italy. When shopping for the real stuff, whether it's Kirkland Signature or Zanetti, you may notice a logo declaring it is "DOP," an acronym for "Denominazione di Origine Protetta." This is equivalent to "Protected Designation of Origin" (via Parmigiano Reggiano USA). This mark indicates the cheese is authentic to its region of origin, with locally sourced ingredients, and is crafted by artisans making it in the traditional way.

Parmigiano-Reggiano must come from the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, and part of Bologna (per European Union). It also must contain the three traditional ingredients of milk, salt, and rennet, making it a non-vegetarian-friendly cheese (via Parmigiano Reggiano Guidelines). Aged for at least 12 months, each wheel is inspected by a consortium that certifies the cheese's authenticity and quality. 

Given the complexities of sourcing and exporting real Parmigiano-Reggiano, it makes sense that Costco would partner with a well-established brand like Formaggi Zanetti. Costco's buying power means the grocery chain can buy in bulk and pass the savings on to its members. If you've picked up a wheel from Costco, you may be interested in trying a few of these recipes elevated by Parmesan cheese (and Parmigiano-Reggiano).