Velveeta is not cheese. Velveeta is a cheese-like substance.
In industry language, Velveeta is packaged as a ‘pasteurized prepared cheese product’. That basically mean it’s processed.
Processing extends shelf life and allows manufacturers to make a uniform, consistent product. It’s also cheaper because you’re mixing inexpensive inputs together rather than relying on milk and enzymes alone.
Milk, water, milkfat, whey, whey protein concentrate, sodium phosphate, milk protein concentrate, alginate, sodium citrate, apocarotenal (color), annatto (calor), enzymes, cheese culture.
You might read that list and think, ‘Well that doesn’t sound so bad’. And honestly, it doesn’t. Compared to most processed foods, Velveeta is relatively simple.
There is, however, one item I’ve never heard of: Alginate.
Some quick research reveals alginate as a flavorless emulsifier, similar to xanthan gum. It’s used in dye printing and in gel-like foods. If you have some sort of slurry you’d like to solidify, alginate is a substance you’d consider using.
Thankfully, alginate is a natural-leaning additive. It’s derived from brown seaweed.
Given the other ingredients, then, alginate is giving Velveeta its final, cheese-like structure. Without it, Velveeta would probably resemble thick, frothy orange water.