During the recent World Dairy Expo, Sarah Schmitt with Associated Milk Producers Inc., the largest cheese cooperative in the U.S, talked about how the co-op faired through the pandemic.


“Cheese and butter were the darlings of the pandemic. When people were home baking, cooking, what do you turn to but cheese and butter, the old reliable. So, for us it was a good year, we saw a great demand in both cheese and butter. Unfortunately, when you look at the industry as a whole, half of our sales go to retail, half of our sales go to the restaurant industry, and so when our restaurant customers were suffering, we felt that pain as well. We're starting to see more activity in that food service sector. It comes and goes and comes back again. The Delta variant has been questionable, but by and large, consumer demand for cheese and butter has been great.”

Schmitt added AMPI is exploring what the cooperative can do to be better prepared for similar events in the future.

“You certainly need to look at the supply chain and all the logistical issues that you experienced, whether it had to do with packaging that was held up, ingredients, even for us as we begin to export cheese, the cargo shipments. There's so many different facets of the supply chain that the pandemic hit. You need to ask your question, are you going to make investments for once in a century pandemics, and so that's what our dairy farmers, the co-op board of directors is considering, how best do we position the co-op for success and for dairy farmers success, but also being ready for these unforeseen circumstances like a pandemic.”

In 2020, AMPI dairy farmer-owners marketed 4.7 billion pounds of milk, resulting in $1.8 billion in sales.

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