Industry Leaders Feted at Forum

DF’s Processor of the Year among awards presented.
The first full day of the 2005 Dairy Forum in Orlando, Fla., got rolling January 10 with the annual awards breakfast, recognizing the work of industry leaders from among processors and producers.
Leading the agenda was Dairy Field magazine’s 2004 Processor of the Year Award, given to Denver-based Leprino Foods Co., the world’s largest manufacturer of mozzarella cheese. Leprino president Larry Jensen accepted the award, joined on stage by chairman Jim Leprino and Wes Allen, Leprino’s former president.
“Leprino Foods is truly an American success story,” DF editor James Dudlicek said in presenting the award. “From humble beginnings as a handmade cheese operation in back of the family grocery store in Denver to the largest processor of mozzarella with 11 plants here and overseas, Leprino Foods has grown by employing a strategy of innovation and quality, working with its customers — always listening — and constantly working to find ways to get the job done better and more efficiently.”
(DF’s coverage of Leprino Foods appeared in the November 2004 issue and is archived at www.dairyfield.com.)
Coincidentally, one of the next awards also had a Leprino connection. Allen was honored with the National Cheese Institute’s (NCI) Laureate Award for significant contributions to the development and growth of the cheese industry. The award was presented by NCI chairman Mike Reidy, who is Leprino’s senior vice president of procurement, logistics and business development.
“Wes’ passion for business and his staff’s commitment to his vision are unsurpassed,” Reidy said of Allen, who recently retired after nearly four decades with Leprino. “[Allen] has been challenging the industry to continuously improve for more than 38 years.”
Allen joined Leprino in 1966 as controller, then served as vice president of finance before becoming president in 1978. Under Allen’s leadership, the company made great strides in the technology and functionality of cheese production. Allen remains on the boards of Leprino and Glanbia Cheese Ltd., Leprino’s joint venture partner.
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) presented four industry leaders with Soaring Eagle Awards: Lou Gentine, chairman and chief executive officer of Sargento Foods; Gary Wells, CEO of Wells’ Dairy Inc.; John Jeter, president and CEO of Hilmar Cheese Co.; and Rick Beaman, chief operating officer of the Southwest Region of Dean Foods.
The Soaring Eagle Award recognizes extraordinary service by those who have chaired the IDFA, NCI, Milk Industry Foundation (MIF) and the International Ice Cream Association (IICA).
Finally, North Florida Holsteins of Bell, Fla., was honored with the 2005 Innovative Dairy Farmer of the Year Award. This award, sponsored by IDFA and Dairy Today magazine, recognizes U.S. dairy producers that apply creativity, excellence and forward thinking to achieve greater farm productivity and improved milk marketing.
The largest single dairy farm in Florida, 1,250-acre North Florida Holsteins is home to 3,600 cows that produce 77 million pounds of milk annually.