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March 8, 2019
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Shullsburg Creamery seeks to set itself apart with quality, tradition

FLAVOR FILLED — Shullsburg Creamery strives to meet the needs of customers who are seeking something new and different with a variety of flavored cheeses.

NEW SPREADABLE CHEESE —Shullsburg Creamery is offering a new French Style Gournay Cheese Spread. The 8-ounce retail package is available in three flavors.

By Kate Sander

SHULLSBURG, Wis. — Shullsburg Creamery is at the top of its game, with high-quality new products and an increased emphasis on finding just the right partners with which to do business, says Scott Stocker, Shullsburg Creamery CEO.

“We’re producing some of the most wonderful cheeses I’ve seen in my career,” Stocker says.

Stocker’s brother, Bill Stocker, is head cheesemaker and plant manager, and he was instrumental in the design of the 8,700-square-foot plant that went online in August 2015. The plant, which features traditional equipment best suited for small batch cheesemaking, has the capacity to make about 80,000 pounds of cheese weekly, first shift.

Bill Stocker has been making cheese his entire career, and his expertise as well as the capabilities of the plant enable Shullsburg Creamery to try different flavors and different cultures.

One of the areas on which Shullsburg Creamery puts special focus is manufacturing traditional cheeses, particularly those known in the Midwest, that are of the highest quality, Scott Stocker says.

“High automation is a double-edged sword,” Scott Stocker says. “Automation is the logical next step, but automation can limit quality and variety.”

The company has made a commitment to “brand promise,” honoring the trust the consumer has put into the brand, Stocker says.

“Therefore, all cheese under the Shullsburg Creamery brand has to be the best available. With this commitment to quality we have set ourselves apart from the producers of commodity cheese,” he adds.

As a testament to this, Stocker cites Shullsburg Creamery’s first place finish in the Colby and Monterey Jack class at the 2018 Wisconsin State Fair. The company took first in the class with its Colby Jack Traditional Longhorn and third in the class with its Monterey Jack, Stocker says. Shullsburg Creamery’s Colby Jack also won first in its class at the National Milk Producers Federation’s contest last fall.


“We’re producing some of the most wonderful cheeses I’ve seen in my career.”

Scott Stocker
SHULLSBURG CREAMERY


Quality doesn’t just start with the cheese plant, either, Stocker is quick to note. The creamery, owned by Mid-West Dairymen’s Co., Rockford, Illinois, has about 120 family farm owners. They are focused on quality, and all have signed agreements to not use growth hormones. They also are enrolled in the National Dairy FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) Program.

In addition to high-quality, traditional cheeses, Shullsburg Creamery also prides itself on providing the latest in flavors. While the company will always make a “Pepper Jack,” the Stocker brothers like to experiment and offer new flavors. Some of those flavors stick around for a while, and others last just for a season because “consumers want new and different but then their interest wanes,” Stocker says.

The company’s newer introductions include a Salsa Cheddar, combining salsa spices with Shullsburg’s milled curd Cheddar, and Three Pepper Marble Cheddar, featuring jalapeno, chipotle and habanero flavors.

Other flavored cheeses that Shullsburg Creamery has created and currently is marketing include Bourbon Barrel Smoked Cracked Black Pepper Cheddar, Maple Bacon Cheddar, Buffalo Wing Cheddar, Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar and Jack ’N Dill.

Shullsburg Creamery strives to be a full-service provider, and for the cheeses it doesn’t make itself it partners with a number of other Wisconsin cheesemakers. Many of these relationships span decades.


“We have good relationships with all of our suppliers because we are consistent in our volumes and we do not beat them up for price by playing the market. They can count on regular orders from us with no hassles. We fight to maintain supply relationships, and we avoid bouncing around.”

Scott Stocker
SHULLSBURG CREAMERY


“We have good relationships with all of our suppliers because we are consistent in our volumes and we do not beat them up for price by playing the market. They can count on regular orders from us with no hassles. We fight to maintain supply relationships, and we avoid bouncing around,” Stocker says.

Among its offerings from other cheesemakers is Brun-uusto, a Juustoleipa-style grilling cheese made by Lafayette Creamery who has given Shullsburg Creamery permission to market under their brand as long as they honor the Brun-uutsto name. This grilling cheese is becoming increasingly popular because one can enjoy the rich flavor of grilled cheese without the bread, Stocker says.

In addition, the company has expanded into offering a new cheese spread, French Style Gournay Cheese Spread. The 8-ounce retail package is available in three flavors: French Onion, Garlic ’N Herbs and Garlic ’N Herbs with Jalapeno.

At the Winter Fancy Food Show in January, the company’s cheeses were met with an incredibly positive reception, Stocker says.

“People would come back to us and say our cheese was the ‘best in the whole show.’ We know that they said that to everyone but it was flattering nonetheless,” Stocker says.

In addition to focusing on cheese quality, Shullsburg Creamery continues to reinvest in its packaging capabilities. The company is able to offer sizes ranging as small as 3/4-ounce pieces to 8-ounce cuts to larger pieces. Last year, it installed a new custom curd packaging machine, which helped in reducing labor costs. The machine is able to complete 30 packages a minute, Stocker says.

Labeling for the company’s Shullsburg Creamery products, marketed with the tagline “The Taste of Old Fashion Goodness,” has been updated. The mainline products are under this format. The company’s artisanal cheeses are labeled with a subdued, craft paper label featuring a hand drawing of a 19th century cheese factory from a local artist. Cheeses produced in Wisconsin feature the Wisconsin Pride logo. Others packaged and marketed by Shullsburg note “A Wisconsin Tradition” with a Wisconsin outline.

“The Wisconsin cheese category is something that appeals to consumers,” Stocker says. “We have a wide product line that is Wisconsin.”


“For the right customers, we can provide full supply and the quality they need without a risk of shortage. We can put together a large variety of products without high minimum order quantities.”

Scott Stocker
SHULLSBURG CREAMERY


The labeling update has been expensive and slow-going, but other brands the company offers eventually will be updated as well, Stocker says.

To further expand its market presence, the company also hired retail veteran Tim Fink as vice president of new business development to drive new sales into national/international markets. Previously Fink worked with Niemann’s Food Stores and Price Chopper in New York, but when he came to the Shullsburg team last year, it was also a bit of a “return home” for Fink, who was sales manager for Shullsburg Creamery more than a decade ago, Stocker says.

With a successful business in retail and a large stock of a variety of cheeses, Stocker says Shullsburg Creamery is working to expand its presence in both foodservice and exports.

“Restaurants are realizing there are better options out there,” he says, noting discerning chefs are innovating and many want higher-quality cheeses. “They aren’t interested in the ‘sea of sameness.’

“We are looking for the right fits for our customer base,” he adds. “I can’t supply commodity cheese to big volume users, but we have an outstanding variety of products. We’re looking for that right fit, and we’re finding it one customer at a time.”

When that right fit is found, there’s almost an audible click, Stocker says.

“For the right customers, we can provide full supply and the quality they need without a risk of shortage,” he says. “We can put together a large variety of products without high minimum order quantities.”

Stocker also is taking the company beyond U.S. coasts with an increased emphasis on exports. He just returned from a trip to China and has distributors in Japan where he worked to expand the company’s growing sales. The company also is expanding sales in South America and the Middle East, Stocker says.

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