In a crushing blow to bagel-obsessed Montrealers (and tourists in the know), dairy maker Liberté has axed its luscious, tangy, thick, yet somehow also light and airy, cream cheese — the preferred spread for many a St-Viateur Bagel or Fairmount Bagel purchase.
Now crammed at the bottom of Liberté’s FAQ page is an unsatisfying answer to a question that’s recently plagued some Montrealers: Where did all our Liberté go?
“We’re sorry that you have been unable to find our cream cheese. This product [sic] been discontinued as it’s no longer feasible for Liberté to continue delivering the high quality product and the value that users expect of Liberté Cream Cheese,” the company states. It still makes yogurts, sour cream, cottage cheese, kefir, and goat milk.
According to Montreal Jewish food historian Kat Romanow, who broke the news in a post on the Nosher, Liberté felt there was insufficient demand for the cream cheese. Eater has reached out to Liberté parent company General Mills to learn more about its decision to kill a product it once called “a source of pride for more than 80 years” and “the most sought-after spreadable cheese for Montréal-style bagels.”
A representative for iconic Montreal bagel shop St-Viateur tells Eater it was a “sad day” when they learned Liberté cream cheese would be no more. The shop received its last shipment of the white and black containers roughly a month ago. “A lot of people gravitated towards Liberté because, dollar for dollar, it was the best cream cheese,” the representative says. Western Creamery cream cheese, another solid bet, although slightly steeper in price, has also reportedly been discontinued, leaving only Philadelphia and Arla cream cheese in St-Viateur’s fridge.
Fairmount Bagel, Montreal’s other top-ranking bagel destination, is in a similar predicament. “Many of our customers as well as my own family were very disappointed to hear that Liberté cream cheese had been discontinued,” Fairmount owner Rhonda Shlafman tells Eater over DM. “Liberté cream cheese had a very unique taste and texture unlike no other cream cheese available in Montreal.”
Liberté got its start in 1936 when the Kaporovsky family, Jewish immigrants from Russia, founded the company on the corner of St-Urbain and Duluth. Initially selling kosher cream cheese, cottage cheese, and sour cream, the company eventually expanded its product offerings as it swapped hands over the years. It was acquired by multinational group Yoplait in 2010 and then by General Mills in 2021.
“In its nearly 90 year history, Liberté has grown from serving the Jewish community in a working class, immigrant neighbourhood, to becoming one of the most well known Quebec dairy producers,” Romanow writes in her elegy to the schmear.
Montrealers are also lamenting the loss of the cream cheese. One Twitter user calls it a “terrible decision by [Liberté’s] corporate overlords.” Another writes, “As a Montreal bagel lover (“Lover” doesn’t even really capture it, as it’s too casual. Do I “love” breathing?), this ruined my morning.”
Today, Liberté is left without the offering that helped make it so beloved in the city where it began. In its absence, perhaps devotees will develop a new favourite bagel spread, maybe they’ll reluctantly bend to the Philadelphias and Arlas of this world, or, remaining profoundly shaken by the news, they may choose to keep it plain for the next little while.