As the industry continues to adapt and grow, forward-thinkers have stepped up to the plate to innovate and expand our horizons. National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is one such innovator, as the association sought to bring cheese contests back to the industry.
It’s not something most people think about, but in a time of social distancing and curtailed travel, how exactly does one gather, sample, compare, and celebrate world-class cheeses, virtually? According to the press release, coordinators Jamie Jonker and Miquela Hanselman set out to find the answer—and their solutions were cheese-tastic, to say the least.
“I think it’s important that while we are in strange and unique times because of the pandemic, that some things still continue to happen as a normal course of order,” said Jonker, NMPF’s Staff Scientist and a 16-year veteran of the competition. “The most rewarding part is that, unless we told people about how we did it, most people wouldn’t understand that it was any different from other years. And I think that’s a testament to the great team that we’ve got at National Milk, our cheese judges, and our co-ops that enter the cheese every year, for really making it seem like nothing was different, even though everything was different.”
Judging conducted from multiple locations, and donated storage spaces and smaller cheese blocks played their role—as did continual ingenuity from a team determined not to let a pandemic upend a cherished dairy tradition.
NMPF announced the winners of its first-ever virtual cheese contest—believed to be the first nationwide U.S. cheese contest of the virtual era, the press release noted—last week. This week’s Dairy Defined Podcast tells the tale of the Cheese Contest That Could, featuring Jonker, Hanselman, and Head Cheese Judge Allison Reynolds of the USDA, facilitated by NMPF Communications Manager Theresa-Sweeney Murphy.
What else can we expect from the dairy, deli, and specialty sectors as we continue to grow stronger together? Deli Market News will report when it comes to light.