Fifteen traditional and stabilised retail soft cheeses (M1, M2 and M3), for which the manufacturing processes were different, were studied using front face fluorescence spectroscopy. Tryptophan, riboflavin and vitamin A fluorescence spectra were recorded at room temperature in two sampling zones (external (E) and central (C)) of the investigated cheeses. The 15 cheeses were discriminated using their spectra by applying principal component analysis (PCA) and common components and specific weights analysis (CCSWA). Using the PCA, the best result was obtained from the vitamin A fluorescence spectra. CCSWA was then applied to the three spectral data sets. Results showed that the CCSWA methodology allowed use of all the spectroscopic information given by the three intrinsic probes in a very efficient way. Fluorescence spectroscopy could provide useful fingerprints, allowing the identification of cheeses according to their manufacturing processes and sampling zones. The spectral patterns allowed information on the protein structure, protein-protein and protein-fat globule interactions and the degree of degradation of riboflavin to be derived at the molecular level. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.