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American Cheese Month Donations To ACEF Benefit Entire Artisan Industry

Madison—As American Cheese Month kicks off Oct. 1, the American Cheese Society (ACS) is urging its community to help fund the American Cheese Education Foundation (ACEF) for the greater good of the entire industry.

ACEF is the alliance organization of ACS created to support existing and new educational efforts for all those interested in producing, marketing, selling, and appreciating North America’s artisan, farmstead, and specialty cheeses.
As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, ACEF is eligible for foundation and federal grants for which the ACS cannot apply.

David Gremmels, president of Rogue Creamery, Central Point, OR, said American Cheese Month is a perfect opportunity to participate and subsequently donate.
I think there’s a great benefit for those who participate in this event – elevating the awareness of American cheese, and also elevating the awareness of the good your organization is doing in contributing to American cheese education to better our industry, Gremmels said.

Participants across the entire industry are encouraged to get involved, from cheese makers to retailers, educators and enthusiasts, said Kendall Antonelli of Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, Austin, TX.

For all those who consider American Cheese Month just another thing to do or are scrambling for ideas and wonder if it’s worth it, Antonelli said that yes – it’s about the social good, but it’s also about driving foot traffic.

“I’m grateful every time one of those random days pops up,” she said. “Here, you’re given this month-long opportunity to fill deeper, meaningful relationships with nearby producers.”

ACS will also recognize all the businesses that participate in American Cheese Month in its Cheese Bytes newsletter, creating more social media attention. Participating companies that either send a check to ACS in November or use #Americancheesemonth, will be entered into a prize drawing.

Rogue Creamery will donate 1 percent of its sales across its cheese shop and wholesale operations throughout October to ACEF.

We’ve been doing this for a few years, and it’s actually been very successful in that it has generated collaborations with restaurants and retailers, and can help grow funding opportunities for the American Cheese Education Foundation, Gremmels said.

For example, two years ago Rogue Creamery asked Antonelli’s Cheese Shop to match its donation.

“We said ‘sure,’ and we had a social media platform to put out there and double our efforts,” Antonelli said.

“It just continues to grow and evolve organically, and I’m really exited to see where it will be in 2018 and forward,” Gremmels continued.

Another example of American Cheese Month participation is partnering with area restaurants. Oregon-based Burgerville restaurant chain contacted Rogue Creamery and donated five cents per burger to ACEF, becoming the number-one donation in ACEF history – over $10,000 in contributions made by Burgerville as a result of the Smokey Blue Burger featuring Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue cheese.

Another example is cheese knife manufacturer Bosca Holland-USA, which has a special collection of knives with the ACS logo featured and sold at Whole Foods Market nationwide.

Bosca donates 2 percent of the total sale of these knives to the American Cheese Education Foundation.

Plenty Of Creative Opportunities For Cheese Mongers, Retailers
There’s lots of creative ways those in the cheese community – particularly mongers, who these days have creative social media accounts – can support American cheese education, Antonelli said.

For retailers, there’s plenty of options available to us as well, so we’re pretty lucky, she continued. You can invite cheese makers in for “Meet the Maker” demos, host American cheese tasting classes, and have daily features on specific American cheeses, where a portion of sales would be dedicated to ACEF.

Last year, Cowgirl Creamery of Point Reyes, CA, created a specific gift basket featuring American cheeses and held a social media contest to name the collection. A portion of proceeds from the collection was then donated to the American Cheese Education Foundation.

Retailers can also collaborate with restaurants, in which retailers will give chefs different American cheeses and a portion of ticket sales will go to ACEF.

Cheese industry leaders Marcella Wright and Allin Tallmadge have likewise created a social media campaign and contributed significantly to scholarships allowing individuals to attend ACS annual conferences and take the Certified Cheese
Professional (CCP) exam, Gremmels said.

Antonelli gave shout-outs to Cheese+Provisions and Cheese Plus for their social media initiatives from last year.

Other ideas include cheese education classes on the Taste of USA, Old World Versus New World, American Versus Europe, ACS Winning Cheeses, blind tastings, and regional competitions such as North Versus South and East Versus West.

“For the first week of the month, you could do cheeses of the West, and the second week of the month, you could highlight cheeses of the East, and kind of move through it that way,” Antonelli said.

“Logistically, we don’t change our case for that. We just put little stickers or talkers on those certain cheeses, and this year we’ll be donating a portion of those sales from each week of what we’re highlighting,” she said.

Teaming up with other types of food manufacturers is another idea – pairing up with salami makers, artisan brewers or chocolaterians, Antonelli said.
Cheese guilds are another great vehicle for supporting American Cheese Month, as well as some of the cheese festivals.

 

“I think there’s a growing interest in guilds to participate and support the work that is being funded by (American Cheese Education Foundation”. It’s really exciting to see that happen organically.”
—David Gremmels, Rogue Creamery

 

“The Maine Cheese Guild has done farm tours in support of American Cheese Month, and the Oregon Cheese Guild is putting together a basket of cheese and wines from Oregon that will be raffled during the month of October to support ACEF,” Gremmels said.

“I think there’s a growing interest in guilds to participate and support the work that is being funded by ACEF,” he said. “It’s really exciting to see that happen organically.”

One of the first makers and retailers to participate in this endeavor was Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, “which featured an American cheese in its store, and really publicized on chalkboards and social media,” Gremmels said. “It gave some good discounts and allowed the cheese to get out into the marketplace and onto household tables in that region.”

“It’s a program that continues today and features a different cheese every day of the month,” he continued.

There are other makers across the US that are participating and offering discounts to retailers to promote their cheeses in environments like Zingerman’s, Cowgirl Creamery, Draeger’s Market, Standard Market, and many more, Gremmels said.
Embrace Print, Digital Media

This is also a really great opportunity to align with your media superstars, Gremmels continued. We all have them – we all have a great contact in media, so I think sending them some cheese and giving them the story to tell and help support what you’re doing in increasing awareness.

“I’ve been so taken back and surprised by the media that we’ve received by doing just that, both digital and in print,” Gremmels said.

Even though American Cheese Month is just a few weeks away, it’s not too late to participate, Antonelli said. I’m a big proponent of having a marketing plan in advance; I’m a proponent, but don’t always do it as well as I should.

“I’ll be there – last minute – trying to figure out what we should do,” she said.

As a maker, we really do plan out our promotional calendar and are looking ahead to 2020, Gremmels said. We understand the dollar commitment, but we also understand what that contribution will mean to ACEF.

“Our first year was very spontaneous, but we’ve taken it to another level that’s incorporated into our social giving commitment as a public benefit corporation,” Gremmels said.

“It’s a very positive impact that will not only increase sales, but will also allow you all to contribute to the goodness of cheese and the greatness of what ACEF can do for our members,” he continued.

For more information on American Cheese Month and the American Cheese Education Foundation visit www.events-education/american-cheese-month-2/.