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December 14, 2018
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Burnett Dairy renews focus on Wood River Creamery and Cady Creek brands
Cooperative expands its marketing of Gouda

PREMIUM, HAND-CRAFTED CHEDDARS —Wood River Creamery, crafted by hand in small batches, is Burnett Dairy’s premium cheese line. The brand is best known for its Alpine Cheddar, which includes a traditional Original Alpine Cheddar option as well as flavored options. In addition, the line includes Northwoods Cheddar, a cheese that is made using a blend of unique cultures that make it creamier than other traditional Cheddars.

GOUDA FOCUS — Burnett Dairy is increasing its focus on production and marketing of its Cady Creek Farms Gouda. The co-op views Gouda as an up-and-coming variety for American consumers and currently offers the cheese in three flavors — regular, smoked and rosemary.

By Kate Sander

GRANTSBURG, Wis. — Burnett Dairy Cooperative, a 170-dairy, farmer-owned cooperative in northwestern Wisconsin, is updating its branding and artwork as well as adding new products to better showcase the cooperative’s capabilities and meet the evolving needs of customers.

The full-service cooperative provides a wide variety of cheese flavors and styles for retail, deli, foodservice and private-label customers. In addition to its popular Wood River Creamery and Cady Creek Farms brands, which are both receiving updates and renewed marketing focus, Burnett Dairy also sells Burnett Dairy and Fancy branded cheeses. The co-op’s offerings include Alpine Cheddar, Traditional Cheddar, Colby, Jack, Gold’n Jack, Gouda and old-style Mozzarella and Provolone made with traditional pasta filata methods, says Stephanie Miller, who handles marketing for the cooperative.

• Wood River Creamery

Burnett Dairy’s Wood River Creamery brand is positioned as its artisan brand. These one-of-a-kind, premium cheeses are special because they are handcrafted in small batches led by the co-op’s Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Bruce Willis, Miller says. The brand is best known for its Alpine Cheddar, which uses cultures typically associated with Gruyere. The Alpine Cheddar, which has won several awards over the years, includes a traditional Original Alpine Cheddar option as well as flavors including rosemary, roasted red pepper and cracked peppercorn, and black truffle.

In addition, the Wood River Creamery brand includes Northwoods Cheddar, a cheese that is made using a blend of unique cultures that make it creamier than other traditional Cheddars. The cheese has a full flavor and smooth finish, Miller says.

The Wood River Creamery brand typically is sold at higher-end retailers and warehouse stores. While the brand primarily is sold for retail, it also has a growing following among the foodservice segment.

As it grows, the cooperative aims to give pairing and serving suggestions for its Wood River Creamery cheeses to both chefs and general consumers.

“We are taking great care in making sure Wood River Creamery is carefully aged to fully develop its classic sweet nutty Alpine notes. We want our consumers to enjoy this cheese both on its own but also in their favorite recipes because it melts so well,” Miller says of Wood River Creamery brand cheese. “It’s great in recipes like soups and potatoes au gratin, providing a great depth of flavor.”

As part of updating its look and getting the word out about the cheese, Burnett Dairy also is working more closely with chefs and influencers. The brand has a lot of potential, Miller says, and the cooperative wants to talk to as many people as it can about it.


“We are taking great care in making sure Wood River Creamery is carefully aged to fully develop its classic sweet nutty Alpine notes. We want our consumers to enjoy this cheese both on its own but also in their favorite recipes because it melts so well.”

Stephanie Miller
BURNETT DAIRY COOPERATIVE


“We know once people try it, it’s a brand they come back to because it has a great flavor and is so versatile,” Miller adds.

• Cady Creek Farms

Burnett Dairy also owns the Cady Creek Farms brand, which specializes in American-type cheeses (Colby, Cheddar and Monterey Jack) as well as Gouda. The cooperative’s Cady plant in Wilson, Wisconsin, is one of the few U.S. plants making traditional 6-inch longhorns and specialty 4-inch deli (or “mini”) horns, Miller notes.

These cheeses, which typically are sold “behind the glass” in supermarket delis throughout the Midwest and West, are in the process of being updated with a new label that highlights the premium nature of these products and ties in with Burnett Dairy’s look but also retains elements of Cady Creek Farms’ historic label.

“We’re aiming to have the Cady Creek brand look more connected to the Burnett family,” Miller says.

Burnett Dairy operates two plants, one at its original location in Grantsburg, and the second being the Cady plant in Wilson that it acquired in November 2012. At the time of this acquisition, Burnett Dairy purchased the plant as well as ownership interest in the separately owned and operated Cady brand. Last year, Burnett acquired 100-percent ownership of the brand and is now in the process of fully integrating it into Burnett operations.

The Cady Creek Farms branded cheeses are quite versatile, Miller says. The cooperative prides itself on producing consistent, high-quality products with process controls that preserve the art of successful cheesemaking recipes.

One of the particularly unique things about the Wilson plant is its traditional process for making deli horns. With the use of traditional cheesecloths and horn forms, the cooperative drains the whey off cheese to create deli horns with superior flavor and quality, Miller says.

“We are able to make very flavorful and young Colby cheeses that can still be sliced without crumbling,” she says.

“It’s a good looking, good functioning and good tasting cheese. It checks all the boxes,” Miller says.

Because the cheeses are so sliceable and in response to customer demand for convenience, Burnett Dairy is in the process of expanding its selection of prepackaged slices for the deli, she says.


“A true benefit of having your own stores is being able to test product with consumers.”

Stephanie Miller
BURNETT DAIRY COOPERATIVE


• Increased Gouda focus

Burnett Dairy also is in the process of adding to its Gouda production, says Miller, who calls Gouda an “up-and-coming flavor’ for the American palate. While not new to Americans, the cheese is becoming much more popular, opening the door for new domestic production.

With the increase in Gouda production, the co-op’s Gouda line is now available in 3-pound packages, 7-ounce pre-cut pieces and slices. It comes in regular, smoked and rosemary varieties.

One of the ways the Burnett Dairy staff learns what appeals to its customers is through its two stores located in conjunction with its plants.

“A true benefit of having your own stores is being able to test product with consumers,” Miller says, noting for example how she recently took three smoked Goudas of various color depths to consumers in the retail store to get their feedback.

“Our smoked Gouda survey internally did not provide the same answers as when I went into the store,” she says. “We’re too close to it. But there’s a big benefit to having stores and getting firsthand the true identity of what shoppers are looking for.”


“We have a standard, and we help our farmers maintain that standard.
Good cheese starts with good milk.”

Stephanie Miller
BURNETT DAIRY COOPERATIVE


• Looking to the future

Burnett Dairy operates a retail store, bistro and general store at its Grantsburg location as well as a retail store in Wilson. The bistro offers a chance for Burnett Dairy to experiment with cheeses in finished products, including new sandwiches, Miller says.

Burnett Dairy has a strong history to share with consumers as it further develops its brands. However, the strength of the brands isn’t just the stories dating back to the co-op’s roots in the 1890s, Miller says. Rather, it’s the fact that Burnett Dairy is a cooperative from beginning to end. In addition to producing and selling award-winning cheese, the cooperative works hard to provide the latest crop, feed, fuel and animal health services to its farmer members. With that comes higher-than-industry-standard somatic cell count requirements and an important focus on animal care.

“We have a standard, and we help our farmers maintain that standard,” Miller says. “Good cheese starts with good milk.”

As it endeavors to develop its brands, Burnett Dairy will be sharing the things that set it apart from other cooperatives through an updated website and increased use of social media.

“We’re working on making our story more accessible,” Miller says. “We’ve got great information on what being a co-op means and about being rbST-free. We believe in our products and are working on how to best share that information and connect with shoppers online.”

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