Wisconsin Aging and Grading (WAG) might not fly into the mouths of consumers looking to name their favorite artisan cheese brands—but the company may have had a hand in some of your favorites. As a wholesale custom sourcing specialist for high-quality Cheddar—aged and fresh—WAG has been providing grading, aging programs, spot sales, flavor profiling, warehousing, and more to some of Wisconsin’s best cheesemakers. And in recent years, the company has expanded its operation to include a number of retail brands—most recently the 724 Wisconsin Select brand.
I had the opportunity to learn more about WAG from Kate Neumeier Clarke, third generation cheese grader and WAG President and COO.
“My grandfather, Eugene Neumeier, was, when he first received his grader’s license, the youngest grader ever, and he worked in the cheese industry for more than 32 years,” Kate explained to me. “So aging and grading cheese is very much in my family history and in my genes.”
Eugene’s son and Kate’s father, Ken Neumeier, began his career in 1971; he signed on to a prominent Green Bay cheese grader, performing shipping, receiving, and inventory duties, while at the same time working toward his W.D.A American Cheese Grader’s License. In his subsequent 46 years in the industry, Ken supervised grading, blending, formulating, purchasing and cheese warehousing, plant management, and sales and procurement.
In 2000, Ken founded WAG, eventually bringing along the next generation of Neumeier cheese graders—daughters Kate Neumeier Clarke and Amanda Neumeier-Kist—to oversee operations and marketing.
In 2014, the company created and launched its first retail brand—Wisconsin Grader’s Reserve, a limited private reserve line offering five-, seven-, and ten-year aged Wisconsin Cheddar cheeses. And just recently, the company has expanded that line with its Harmony white Cheddar cheese and the new 724 Wisconsin Select brand—named in honor of Ken’s Cheese Grader’s license number.
“We’re still primarily a wholesaler, but in 2014, we launched our Wisconsin Grader’s Reserve—a triple A brand,” said Kate. “It's very, very limited because all the stars have to align to produce a cheese with the acids and bitters being very balanced across the boards.”
And while Wisconsin Grader’s Reserve may be limited by supply and price point, Kate noted that WAG’s 724 label cheese offers a more affordable price point from a greater supply of premium quality cheese.
“The 724 brand was created to bring quality aged cheddar nationwide,” added Kate. “There were so many people who told us they love our cheese, people who sampled our cheese and told us they needed our cheese, but we couldn’t tell them where to get it because, as a wholesale provider, it is confidential. That’s where the idea behind the brand started to take off. Consumers have changed over the last 18 years; they have more of a knowledge and appreciation for artisan flavors, and that has opened up the door for our type of cheese that we work with and produce.”
With a goal of expanding to nationwide distribution of 724—and a major retailer set to debut product in its over 800 stores nationwide—WAG is offering more and more consumers the opportunity to try what it calls Cheese That Tastes Like More.