World Championship Cheese Contest breaks all-time entry record

Wisconsin State Farmer
World Championship Cheese Contest logo.

MADISON – World Championship Cheese Contest organizers announced on Feb. 5, a record-breaking 3,402 entries in the 2018 competition, set for March 6 - 8 at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison.  Overall participation is up 15 percent from 2016, when the biennial Contest was last held. 

Nick Brummel prepares a wheel of Grand Cru Surchoix cheese at the Emmi Roth USA production plant in Monroe, WI, for labeling. The company won the World Championship Cheese Contest in 2016 for the cheese and since then has seen an increase in sales of the cheese.

“The World Championship Cheese Contest has grown steadily over the past two decades,” said Kirsten Strohmenger Henning, Events Manager for Contest host, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association.  “We’re particularly excited to see the significant jump in entries from cheesemakers operating outside the United States.” 
Strohmenger Henning noted that international entries in the 2018 Contest are up 33 percent, to a total of 919.  Cheesemakers from 26 nations, including Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, are sending their best dairy products for evaluation. 
The United States of America is also strongly represented in the international competition, with entries coming from 32 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. 
“Both in the U.S. and around the world, our Contest’s gold medal on the labels of award-winning cheese drives consumer purchases and boosts sales,” said Strohmenger Henning. “Our Contest offers them the chance at a lucrative title with a guarantee of fair and impartial technical evaluation from a team of internationally-renowned judges.” 
The 2018 judging team consists of 55 experienced cheese graders, cheese buyers, dairy science professors, and researchers, hailing from 20 countries and 15 American states.  

Judges are led by Chief Judge Robert Aschebrock, Chief Judge Emeritus Bill Schlinsog, and Assistant Chief Judges Tim Czmowski of Agropur, Inc., Stan Dietsche of Oshkosh Cheese Sales & Storage, Josef Hubatschek of ALPMA, Mariana Marques de Almeida of Ms. J and Co., Jim Mueller of Mueller Consulting, and Sandy Toney of Masters Gallery Foods.  Brian Eggebrecht of Welcome Dairy, Inc. in Colby, Wisconsin serves as Contest Committee Chairman.  

Tim Omer, president and managing director of Emmi Roth USA, hoists a wheel of his company's Roth Grand Cru Surchoix, a smear ripened hard cheese named world champion, at the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. The cheese was made in Monroe, WI, and is the first American-made cheese to win the top prize since 1988.

Contest judges will evaluate 121 classes of dairy products, including new categories for traditional waxed and natural rinded Cheddars, Paneer, an open class for hard cheeses with natural rinds, and various goat and sheep’s milk cheeses.  A single gold, silver, and bronze medal is awarded to top products in each class. 
“As trends in cheesemaking shift, so too do classes in the World Championship Cheese Contest,” said Strohmenger Henning.  “Ensuring that every cheese is fairly judged against the standards of its type ultimately ensures that when our judges name the Grand Champion, you know it truly is the best cheese in the world.” 
In 2016, Emmi Roth USA’s Grand Cru Surchoix earned a judges’ score of 98.88 out of 100 to claim the title, the first American-made cheese to top the competition in 28 years.

The World Championship Cheese Contest, initiated in 1957, is the largest technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition in the world.

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