RIP Liberté cream cheese: Montreal bagel lovers mourning end of beloved schmear

Liberté cream cheese — "a source of pride for more than 80 years" — has been discontinued, much to the dismay of bagel lovers in Montreal.

Created by a Montreal Jewish family in 1936, spread became local mainstay

Cream cheese favourite Liberté taken off shelves

1 year ago
Duration 2:03
Bagel lovers in Montreal are mourning the end of one of their favourite toppings: Liberté cream cheese. Its parent company, General Mills, cited feasibility issues for the decision to stop producing the product.

"Where's my cream cheese? Where's Liberté?"

St-Viateur Bagel manager Saul Restrepo has been fielding these questions from frazzled customers combing through his shop's refrigerators, unable to find the dairy product beloved by locals. 

And they won't be finding it any time soon. 

In a blow to Montreal bagel lovers, the company that now owns the product, General Mills, has pulled the famous schmear off the shelves.

A short paragraph posted to its FAQ page does little to sweeten the news. 

"It is with great sadness that we must confirm that we will no longer be able to continue making our Liberté cream cheese, which meets the expectations of our consumers," it reads. 

What's a bagel without its Liberté cream cheese? Montrealers will now have to find out. (Getty Images)

Losing the cream cheese, with its light texture that made for easy dipping, will be a difficult pill for Montrealers to swallow, according to Restrepo.

"People ask for Liberté … it's a better cheese," said the manager of the long-running bagel shop. 

"I've been here for like 40 years so since I remember, Liberté was always here. It was part of the bagels."

Long history in city's Jewish community

Kat Romanow was heartbroken when she heard the news about the cream cheese. So much so, she wrote an elegy for it. 

"It was really unlike Philadelphia or anything else that was being sold in stores. It had a really tangy taste and the texture was really light and fluffy," she said. 

A Jewish food historian and co-founder of the blog The Wandering Chew, Romanow's mission is to share the diversity of Jewish stories through food.

And like the bagels that Montrealers love, Liberté cream cheese also has Jewish origins. 

Founded by the Kaporovsky family in 1936, Liberty Dairy Products would supply people in the Jewish community with kosher dairy products such as cottage cheese, sour cream and, of course, cream cheese. (Liberté Inc.)

Founded by the Kaporovsky family in 1936, Liberté — initially known as Liberty Dairy Products — was created in a building on the corner of St-Urbain and Duluth Streets in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough.

From there, the Kaporovskys sold kosher dairy products such as cream cheese, cottage cheese and sour cream to the Jewish community living in the area, according to Romanow.

The company was eventually acquired by multinational yogurt producer Yoplait, and then by General Mills in 2021.

Still, Romanow says Liberté's recipe remained reminiscent of the kind of cream cheese that would have been made when the product was first invented in the late 1800s. 

The company was founded on the corner of St-Urbain and Duluth Streets in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough — the same building that houses mainstay eatery Café Santropol, founded in 1976. (Liberté Inc.)

"There was nothing else like it. It's something that has such a long history in the Jewish community in Montreal and it's so ingrained in the bagel culture in this city," she said. 

So, what are people to schmear now? 

Romanow said maybe it's time to start making her own cream cheese, to spread some love to other grieving Montrealers. 

Based on reporting by Sarah Leavitt, with files from CBC Montreal's Let's Go