WCMA Perspectives | Contributing Columnist

Cheese Growth Begets WCMA Growth

John Umhoefer executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

June 14, 2024


 

Cheese usage is growing, cheese production is booming and your cheese trade association is expanding to match the success.

Retail Sales
Natural cheese sales at all retail outlets, in the four week ending April 21, are up 3 percent versus one year ago, and pasteurized process cheese is also up 3.3 percent. Solid volume gains are found across the board, from Fresh Mozzarella (up 5.6 percent) to Gouda (up 11.6 percent), Muenster (up 2.8 percent), Queso styles (up more than 10 percent), Monterey Jack (up 5.8 percent) and String cheese (up 21.6 percent). Cheddar volume at retail is essentially flat, along with Feta and Colby. Fontina, Swiss, and Blue are down, but “hot” cheeses such as Burrata (up 41.9 percent), Gorgonzola (up 17 percent) and Asadero (up 33.6 percent) point to consumer interest in the wide array of value-added cheeses.

The four-week snapshot above proves that retail sales are strengthening this spring. When looking at a full year of sales ending April 21, natural cheese was up 2.2 percent and pasteurized process up 0.6 percent. Dairy Management Inc. collects this national retail scanner data from Circana.

Cheese Exports
Cheese remains the sales star in export data collected by US Dairy Export Council. Citing data through April 2024, cheese exports from the US are up 23.7 percent compared to first four months of last year.
Cheese sales set an all-time monthly record in March reaching 50,022 metric tons (110.3 million pounds), and April followed with the second-best month ever for cheese at 46,270 metric tons (101.9 million pounds). The first four months of 2024 saw 392 million pounds of US cheese find markets in other nations. Mexico, Central America, South Korea, Japan and Australia/New Zealand are sales leaders and South America is on the rise.

As this column was written, the value of mild Cheddar at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange had risen 45 cents in since the beginning of the year, reflecting growth in cheese sales domestically and abroad, as well as pancake-flat milk production this year compared to the same months in 2023.

Cheese Production Growth
Cheese sales growth is great news as multiple new cheese production facilities across the U.S. have recently opened or will be fully operational by this time next year:
• Agropur’s new facility in Little Chute, WI is now operational.
• Great Lakes Cheese in Franklinville, NY will begin running milk in late 2024.
• Panhandle Cheese in Dumas, TX is now producing.
• Hilmar is now hiring at its massive new Dodge City, KS, cheese plant set to become operational in 2024.
• Leprino Cheese in Lubbock, TX will be commissioned in the fall of 2024.
• Valley Queen Cheese will complete a massive addition in early 2025 to increase production 62 percent at the Milbank, SD factory.
• Bongards Creameries will complete production expansion at Perham, MN in mid-2025.

Together, this new production is estimated at 1.35 billion pounds of natural cheese capacity coming online in 2024-2025. Earlier growth spurred by new production at MWC in St. Johns, MI, First District Association in Litchfield, MN, and Cacique Foods in Amarillo, TX pushes “big project” cheese growth in the US past 1.75 billion pounds since 2022.

WCMA Growth
Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association is growing too – in leadership, events, key programs and staff – to serve the world’s largest cheese industry. This spring, the Association added seven new directors to our Board, a 30 percent expansion, including new seats representing the western and eastern US. WCMA’s manufacturer and processor members now operate plants in 33 states – 40 percent of these members are based outside of our namesake Wisconsin.

Our growing staff is serving this national membership with online and in-person leadership trainings, workforce safety trainings and a growing number of committees and workshops designed to serve dairy processors everywhere. For example, WCMA has joined the push to aid dairy sustainability efforts, partnering with Harbor Environmental and Innovation Center for US Dairy in May on a workshop to help members create their materiality assessments for sustainable practices. Members from seven states joined in.

Forty-seven states, and 19 nations, participated in the 2024 CheeseExpo in April. Not only did the dairy industry’s largest trade exposition hit record attendance this year, but with the imminent expansion of the Baird Center in Milwaukee, CheeseExpo will explode in size in 2026!

These growth metrics for WCMA and our members merely underscore the success of the cheese industry domestically and abroad. We’re proud to build programs and services as cheese continues to lead dairy growth
. JU

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the WCMA since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 286-1001 or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed by Cheese Reporter columnists are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Cheese Reporter.

 

 

John Umhoefer

John Umhoefer has served as executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association since 1992. You can phone John at (608) 286-1001 or e-mail John Umhoefer at jumhoefer@wischeesemakers.org


Recent Columns

2023 Data Lends Urgency to Make Allowance Updates
April 5, 2024

Delayed Relief for Processors
February 2, 2024

US Sheep Cheeses Ever-Poised for Growth
January 5, 2024

Extending Sustainability to Government
November 3, 2023

Here's Where to Set Make Allowances
October 6, 2023

Milk Price Innovation is Inevitable
August 4, 2023

A Broad Milk Price Hearing Approaches the Starting Line
June 9, 2023

Consensus Builds for Make Allowance Updates
May 5, 2023

Initiating Federal Order Reform
April 14, 2023

A Disappointing Guidance From FDA
March 3, 2023

Make Allowance Updates Are Needed NOW: Here's Proof
February 3, 2023

The Million Dollar Question: Where To Build?
January 6, 2023

Consensus On Key Issues Can Get the Federal Order Reform Party Started
November 4, 2022

Another Successful Investment in Dairy's Future
October 7, 2022

Dreams Like Idaho
August 5, 2022

The Coming Cheddapalooza
June 10, 2022

The Unsettled Months Ahead
May 6, 2022

Rationals Builds for Milk Price Reforms
March 11, 2022

Fresh Reasons to Fix Federal Orders
February 4, 2022

A Lot Like Christmas: Grant Opportunities Abound For Dairy
December 3, 2021

The Coming Curd Craze
November 5, 2021

Cheese Markets Robust in Unsettled Times
October 1, 2021

Specialty Growth Brings a Parmesan Partnership
August 6, 2021

Help Wanted!
June 4, 2021

Avoid the Quick Fix for Federal Orders
May 7, 2021

Resilient Artisan Makers Press On
March 5, 2021

Vaccination Varies in Dairy States
February 5, 2021

More Lemonade in this Lemon of a Year
December 4, 2020

Lemonade in this Lemon of a Year
November 6, 2020

A Processor Perspective On Price Reforms
October 2, 2020

Demand Remain in Volatile Times
August 7, 2020

Dairy's Ready for the Whistle
June 5, 2020

Truths Emerge in COVID-19's Upheaval
May 1, 2020

Your Business is Your Workforce
April 3, 2020

Perfect Day at the Dairy Forum
February 7, 2020

Dairy's Future is CDR Innovation
December 6, 2019

Reform Federal Orders Because Everything Has Changed
November 1, 2019

Water Quality Solutions Begin with Agriculture
September 6, 2019

Assistance Abounds for Artisans
August 2, 2019

Tariffs Erode Export Strength
April 5, 2019

Study: Dairy Imitators Confuse Consumers
February 1, 2019

Dairy And The Evers Administration
January 11, 2019




What do you think about 
John Umhoefer's Comments?*



Please tell us if you are a
Dairy product manufacturer 
Dairy marketer /importer/exporter
Milk producer
Supplier to manufacturer
s