Glorious Cheese
James Dudlicek
(847) 405-4009
jdudlicek@stagnito.com

“Cheese: milk’s leap toward immortality.” —  Clifton Fadiman
He may be right, and considering the number of new plants coming on line, cheese just may live forever.
For example, the new Southwest Cheese super-plant in New Mexico expects to consume so much milk — reportedly 7 million gallons a day — that new dairy farms are flocking to the region to serve it. Good for the processor and the producer; after all, it’s a lot cheaper to feed the beast down the street than to ship your milk to faraway markets.
The fact that this facility expects to make millions of pounds of cheddar, jack and colby every year, along with whey products, speaks well to the strength of today’s cheese industry.
Meanwhile, across the state line in Texas near Amarillo, Hilmar Cheese broke ground on a substantial plant to augment its California facility. Leprino is beefing up its forces in Michigan. And, as you’ll read in this month’s cover story, Gossner Foods expects to double its output of Swiss cheese with the plant it opened last fall in Idaho’s Magic Valley, a burgeoning new hotbed of cheese production. Soon to join Gossner in that region is Wisconsin’s Marathon Cheese, which chose the area as the site for a new cut-and-wrap facility. Meanwhile, longtime Twin Falls resident Glanbia Foods continues to upgrade its cheese operations.
It’s nice to know that with fluid sales perennially struggling, all that otherwise unwanted milk is being put to good use. The latest edition of IDFA’s Dairy Facts reports cheese consumption has reached a record high — more than 31 pounds per capita — with more than 300 varieties of cheese available in the United States.
And Americans are broadening their horizons. While American-style cheeses like cheddar have long been the largest category, they’re currently neck and neck with Italian-style cheeses, and together they make up eight out of 10 cheese sales overall. Specialty cheeses continue to build steam, as gourmets here and abroad are seduced by distinctly American varieties.
In addition, Americans want their cheese in formats that provide convenience, whether that’s the way it’s sliced or how it’s packaged. This is a trend confirmed by Gossner Foods CEO Dolores Wheeler, as well as experts we spoke to for our annual cheese report this month.
So from manufacturers big and small, it seems that cheese is continuing on an upward spiral.