CMN

November 9, 2018
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Award-winning Schuman Cheese aims to ‘push the boundaries of flavor’
Collaboration, expertise are keys to artisan line success

COPPER KETTLE SPECIALTY — Schuman Cheese produces Parmesan in a copper kettle, a traditional method of making cheese that imparts a distinctive finish.

TOP WINNER — Altu, part of Schuman Cheese’s Yellow Door Creamery collection, is reminiscent of a Gruyere-style cheese. It is aged for 180 days and features strong butterscotch notes. This past summer, Schuman Cheese won the Grand Master Cheesemaker award at the Wisconsin State Fair for this cheese.

By Kate Sander

FAIRFIELD, N.J. — Schuman Cheese, a fourth-generation, family-owned business, continues to innovate and adapt to changing market needs.
The company started in 1946 as an importer of Italian cheese, expanded to different areas of the world like South America and Eastern Europe to use its expertise to make cheese abroad and, in more recent years, has invested heavily in the United States to produce specialty artisan cheese.

“As we map out our future, innovation is always at the front of our mind,” says Allison Schuman, a member of the Schuman family’s fourth generation and the company’s senior director of sales. “We pride ourselves on being nimble, and we continually challenge ourselves to be disruptive innovators for the cheese category.”

The shift to U.S. production occurred about 13 years ago, Schuman says, noting this was a pivotal point in company history.

“It has allowed us to keep tight control over the quality of what we produce, be near the production and use our creativity to innovate around cheesemaking,” she says, noting the company makes a wide variety of cheeses including Parmesan, Fontina, Blue and Alpine-style cheeses.

“We are the only U.S. company to produce our Parmesan in a copper kettle, which is integral to the production of Italian DOP products such as Grana Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano,” Schuman adds. “Copper is a fantastic conductor of heat, affecting the flavor of the cheese. It is also perfect for the production of Alpine cheeses.”
As part of its 70th anniversary celebration two years ago, Schuman Cheese introduced Yellow Door Creamery, a new brand that complements its flagship brand, Cello, by offering a platform for experimentation.

A key part of the line are Schuman’s Hand-Rubbed Fontinas, which include flavors such as Harissa, a smoky blend of chili, cumin and caraway seed, and Tuscan, a classic blend of Italian herbs and spices.

The company also recently launched two new flavors of Hand-Rubbed Fontinas: Mayan Cocoa Coffee and Dijon Herb.


“As we map out our future, innovation is always at the front of our mind. We pride ourselves on being nimble, and we continually challenge ourselves to be disruptive innovators for the cheese category.”

Allison Schuman
SCHUMAN CHEESE


The Mayan Cocoa Coffee is reminiscent of a Mexican hot chocolate with strong forward notes of chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and a coffee finish.

“I love this cheese because eating it feels decadent, and it is also incredibly versatile,” Schuman says. “It can be used as a breakfast cheese paired with cold brew coffee and some jam, but it’s just as easily a dessert cheese you can pair with whiskey or bourbon.”

The Dijon Herb flavor has Dijon mustard as the base, but the mustard flavor is subtle, and the main notes are more an autumn herb mix that pairs well with the creaminess of the Fontina base.

“The Dijon Herb would be perfect on a grilled cheese or in fondue or alone with a frosty mug of beer,” Schuman says. “The Dijon Herb is one of the most crave-able flavors, and I have yet to see a person not go back for another piece.”

Also part of Yellow Door Creamery is the Alpine line, which consists of four varieties, including Altu and Monteau. Altu is most reminiscent of a Gruyere-style cheese, aged for 180 days with strong butterscotch notes. Monteau is modeled after Abondance and is aged for 120 days with strong fruity and floral notes.

“The Yellow Door Creamery Alpine collection was a labor of love,” Schuman says.

This past summer, the company won the Grand Master Cheesemaker award at the Wisconsin State Fair for Altu, which was the first place winner in the Smear Ripened Cheese Class. It was a back-to-back win for the company, which won the contest’s Grand Master award in 2017 with Monteau.

Rounding out the Alpine line are Valis and Belloux. Valis is most similar to a Raclette-style cheese and is aged 90 days, but it is a bit milder, with a less earthy, more balanced flavor. Valis melts well and is versatile, ideal for a number of uses, Schuman says. It won first place in its class at the World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest this past summer.


“Our mission has always been to enhance eating experiences with the highest quality cheese. In everything we do, we want to fill that core purpose. We strive to not only be leaders in the cheese industry but trendsetters.”

Allison Schuman
SCHUMAN CHEESE


Belloux is the newest addition to the group and is only available in limited quantities. This cheese was created to be a more approachable Reblochon, a cheese popular in Europe but sometimes eschewed by Americans due to its stronger flavor and aroma. Belloux has a smooth, velvety mouthfeel, and is earthy and herbal in its aroma, but has a fruity and nutty flavor.

Schuman says the development of the cheeses is a team effort at the company’s award-winning Lake Country Dairy plant in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin.

“We have talented team members who are passionate about cheese and take tremendous pride in the products we put out in the market,” Schuman says. “Our head cheesemaker, Christophe Megevand, is genuinely one of the great cheesemakers of the world. A native of France, he has been making cheese for almost 40 years and his passion around cheese is palpable.”

In 2018, Schuman Cheese has won a total of 27 awards. In addition to the Wisconsin State Fair and World Dairy Expo contest, its awards have included a gold medal at this past spring’s World Championship Cheese Contest for its Cello Hand Crafted Asiago Wheel and recognitions at the 2018 International Cheese Awards and the American Cheese Society competition.

In developing its specialty cheeses, Schuman Cheese drew not only from its own expertise but that of École Nationale d’Industrie Laitière, a school in France, to help perfect the Schuman cheese culture program.

“Our partnership was an exchange of information, techniques and cheese cultures, with our Alpine cheesemakers going to France, and their students coming to our Lake Country Dairy facility,” Schuman says. “The goal was to create delicious washed-rind cheeses that paid homage to traditional Alpine flavor profiles while creating something exceptional and differentiated that captures the terroir of our land.”

The company’s proprietary cultures were specifically developed to create unique flavors that complement the natural Wisconsin terroir and create extraordinary cheese, she says.


“We have talented team members who are passionate about cheese and take tremendous pride in the products we put out in the market.”

Allison Schuman
SCHUMAN CHEESE


As it develops and adds to its specialty lines, Schuman Cheese also continues to innovate with its flagship Cello brand. The most recent addition to the line is Cello Cheese Flights, designed to make it easier for consumers to navigate the cheese case and pair cheeses. They also are ideal for entertaining and a great option for hosting holiday guests.

“The Cheese Flights are beautiful collections that take the stress and work out of creating the perfect cheese board, and allow you to delight your family and friends with a deliciously curated trio of cheeses. The packaging also offers suggestions to help pair the cheeses to different beverages, so you can easily provide the perfect wine to accompany the cheese,” Schuman says.

Cello Whisps — baked cheese available in airy, crispy “whisps” — also continue to perform well. Available through several new retailers, the line has expanded to new flavors including Asiago Pepper Jack, Bacon BBQ Cheddar and Tomato Basil Parmesan.

The company also offers cheese under Bella Rosa, Montforte and other brands and remains a major importer.

In addition to Lake Country Cheese in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, Schuman Cheese operates manufacturing and cut-and-wrap facilities in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Fairfield, New Jersey; Elgin, Illinois; Fall Creek, Wisconsin; and Montfort, Wisconsin.

“Not only are we a vertically-integrated cheese company with our own domestic production, we are still the largest importers of hard Italian cheese in the country,” Schuman notes. “We have an enviable position, where our history and expertise in Italian cheesemaking provides a foundation based in tradition, but we are free to be creative and push the boundaries of flavor, formats and cultures in our cheeses.”

There are many market opportunities, and Schuman Cheese is well-positioned to develop products consumers need and want, Schuman says.

“Our mission has always been to enhance eating experiences with the highest quality cheese. In everything we do, we want to fill that core purpose. We strive to not only be leaders in the cheese industry but trendsetters,” she says.

Cheese is positioned incredibly well given current diet preferences, she adds. It is an option that appeals to food lovers and health-conscious consumers alike, and that means the opportunities are plentiful.

“With those consumer attitudes in mind, we focus on consumer behavior and trends around cheese, seeing where there are gaps in the marketplace, and innovating to be able to position ourselves to fulfill those consumer needs,” she says.

Schuman Cheese also strives to provide the highest quality in customer service, sharing its consumer insights with vendors and customers.

“Part of what has let us grow over our history is being a partnership-based organization, and cultivating relationships with our vendors, customers and others has led us to some of our greatest endeavors,” she says. “We feel that if we do right by our partners, they will do right by us, and together we can grow and thrive.”

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