The ability to nimbly adapt under the intense pressure of a global pandemic has earned Schreiber Foods the title of Tom Camerlo Exporter of the Year. 

The award was announced Oct. 19 at the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s (USDEC) Fall Annual Membership Meeting in Chicago. It is given annually by Dairy Foods magazine in honor of Camerlo, a former USDEC chairman with a vision to expand exports. 

“We are super excited to have been chosen as the Exporter of the Year,” says Schreiber Foods President and CEO Ron Dunford. “This really does mean a lot to our Schreiber team and validates the hard work that they have put in during an extremely challenging year.”

The employee-owned dairy company, headquartered in Green Bay, Wis., made logistical and other changes to serve its global customers during the COVID-19 crisis, and it has paid off.

In 2020, the company exported to more than 55 countries, achieving double-digit percentage increases in export volume. Schreiber is on track to exceed those totals this year, making it the best year for exports in the company’s 76-year history.

“The pandemic has challenged many of our member companies to make pivots,” says USDEC President and CEO Krysta Harden. “Schreiber stood out by adding new ports, carriers, and routes to what was already one of the industry’s most advanced distribution networks.”

A global company based in Green Bay

Schreiber has more than 9,000 employees in 40 locations on five continents. According to Forbes magazine, Schreiber is the 81st largest private employer in the United States, with total annual sales (domestic and exports) exceeding $5 billion.

Northwestern Mutual Life famously dubbed itself “the quiet company” of the insurance industry. Schreiber might be the biggest quiet company in the U.S. dairy industry. A Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel newspaper profile of Schreiber ran with a headline that said, “You’ve probably never heard of Schreiber Foods, but you’ve probably eaten its products.” 

Schreiber is a customer-brand company that makes cream cheese, natural cheese, process cheese, shelf-stable beverages, and yogurt for some of the world’s leading retailers, restaurants, distributors, and food manufacturers.

Schreiber is quiet because it wants to make its customers shine and put them in the spotlight. Its consumer insights, risk management, and culinary teams help customers drive their competitive edge, keep costs predictable and stable, and drive menu innovation. Schreiber’s creative services team helps customers create impactful marketing tools and artwork that resonates with consumers around the globe. 

Schreiber also has “boots on the ground” in other countries. It has a local sales presence in Latin America and most recently added Southeast Asia. Schreiber offers its customers a diverse team consisting of multilingual professionals with backgrounds in various functions, including operations, supply chain, and marketing.

Criteria for Exporter of the Year

The Exporter of the Year must be a U.S. dairy supplier that:

  • Exemplifies leadership in advancing U.S. dairy exports.
  • Demonstrates a commitment to export market development.
  • Makes exports an integral part of its overall growth strategy.

Schreiber is the first two-time winner, previously earning the honor in 2008. Dairy Foods magazine makes the decision, in consultation with USDEC, which sponsors the award. Applications come from exporting companies asking for consideration or by observers who think the company is worthy of the honor.

The award may mean the most to Schreiber’s dedicated export division, which includes sales, customer service, export compliance, global transportation, and vast supply chain support.

“There is a history behind this award that more senior, legacy-focused members of the dairy industry hold in high regard,” says Eddie Noriega, an international sales manager whose territory includes Japan.

Serving customers without taking public credit

Schreiber creates private-label items with the same flavors, consistent size, and convenience of well-known international brands. Need cream cheese that will satisfy a particular global market? Schreiber has 30 flavors from which to choose. It will test the cream cheese for safety and taste, package it, ship it and even help you market it in another language.

It’s all about keeping the focus on the customer. 

“Our importers want to see where they can make money,” says Mike Lehmann, Schreiber’s international business manager. “That’s what they are in business for. If you show them how to do that, things become simpler. We try to provide the best value for our products and we let them know that.”

World-class distribution network

COVID-19 has created tough circumstances for all U.S. dairy exporters, and the beat goes on with massive logjams at West Coast ports. The pandemic has stretched and sometimes broken supply chains while making timely delivery to other countries an arduous adventure and sometimes a nightmare. 

“We have seen and continue to experience volatile freight lanes, higher freight costs, and changing market conditions,” says Dunford.

As manager of global logistics, Val Holtrop calls on a network of contacts built up over decades, going back to the 1990s when she worked for a freight-forwarding company. She and her team stay close to the industry, frequently communicate with customers and manage skyrocketing costs while exploring new ports, carriers, and routes.

“We’re a step ahead of some,” says Holtrop. “We make the necessary switches, and we’re ready to do business.”

This includes business to faraway global growth markets such as Southeast Asia.

Domestically, Schreiber moves more than 2 billion pounds of refrigerated products to U.S. retail, foodservice, and contract manufacturing companies every year. 

A customer-brand dairy company

Schreiber’s stated vision is “to be the best customer-brand dairy company in the world,” an ambitious aspiration. 

Alfiya Thomas, managing director of export sales, puts it this way: “Our customers rely on us to deliver our food to them in full and on time, every time.” 

An ongoing global pandemic is helping Schreiber demonstrate its seriousness and reap the rewards. 

“Volatility can often scare exporters and customers,” says Dunford. “I am proud of our team and the way they have proactively dealt with these challenges. 

“We are committed to growing our business around the world through exports,” he adds. “We appreciate USDEC and the support they provide us around the globe. There is still so much potential out there and we are excited to be part of it!”

Mark O’Keefe is vice president of editorial services at the U.S. Dairy Export Council.