The Independent Procurement Alliance Program, a food service redistribution company that consolidates cheese orders for both large and small businesses, gave the award to DFW Aug. 5 because of their training initiatives for buyers and sellers. The multipronged approach oversaw the production of 18 training videos that educated sellers on the wide variety and style of Wisconsin cheeses.
The initiative also physically and virtually brought buyers to Wisconsin. Vice president of sales and international Rick Findlay said he’s been happy to host them on farm tours, cheese processor tours, pairing events, sensory evaluations and more as a way for them to see what Wisconsin cheese is all about.
“It just means so much to come in, see the culture, see the passion … (and) the rigor that it takes to become not just certified to be a cheesemaker, but even kicking it up a notch to become a master cheesemakers,” Findlay said. “I would just basically tell people … you can become a doctor faster than you can become a master cheesemaker.”
Findlay said the organization will have its first in-person experience in a while this September in Green Bay, where they will visit several cheese companies and even the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin. He said the trips are extremely effective in showing buyers what they’re getting when they purchase Wisconsin cheese.
The award comes as sales are slowly ticking back up in the dairy industry, Findlay said. While the pandemic saw a 20-30% drop in food service sales but increases in retail sales, the food service industry is now making up for that loss and retail has continued to stay strong. And with 90% of Wisconsin-produced cheese being exported to other states and countries, Wisconsin needs buyers and investors to become immersed in the culture, Findlay said.