This past week, the National Cheese Institute bestowed the owner of the Brewster Cheese Company, Fritz Leeman, the NCI 2015 Laureate Award. The award was presented at the International Dairy Food Association’s Dairy Forum, which runs from January 25–27 in Boca Raton, Florida. Presenting the award to Brewster Cheese was the NCI chairman himself, Mike Reidy, who happens to be vice president of corporate affairs at Leprino Foods, the world’s largest producer of mozzarella cheese.
The NCI Laureate Award is a high honor for those in the cheese industry. It is not given simply based on the taste of a company’s cheese. Recipients must prove they have made ample contributions to the cheese industry, contributing to its long-term development and growth. A panel of professionals in the cheese industry dutifully pours over nominations and assesses whether or not the nominee’s career achievements align with those of a NCI Laureate Award winner.
In the words of Connie Tipton, current NCI president and CEO, “The success and continued growth of the U.S. cheese industry is driven by people who are dedicated to quality cheesemaking and open to innovative ideas.” The NCI Laureate Award recognizes the individuals who show that very passion for the cheese industry.
It’s not hard to see why Brewster Cheese was selected to receive the 2015 award. John Leeman, current owner and Fritz Leeman’s father, first began working at Brewster Cheese back in 1933 as a manager of the Stark County Milk Producers Brewster plant. When the plant was put up for sale in 1965, John and his son decided to purchase the company and make it their own. After producing a variety of cheeses, the duo felt it would be beneficial to specialize. Thus, the company became a solely Swiss cheese manufacturer. Although their product had holes, the business plan did not. Brewster Cheese blossomed and is today the largest producer of Swiss cheese in the country.
Much of this success can be accredited to Fritz Leeman, who has an affinity for finesse when it comes to his cheese. He has continuously updated the technology in his manufacturing facilities to ease production. His state-of-the-art cheese plants slice and seal over 200,000 pounds of cheese daily. His cheese plants also run 24 hours, seven days a week, easily churning out an average of 85 million pounds of Swiss cheese per year. Fritz also introduced a larger block of cheese, which wound up reducing the amount of twin waste during packaging. This is innovation being used in the right places, folks.
“For more than 50 years, Brewster Cheese has been a family business with a stellar reputation for quality cheeses and exceptional customer service, and for most of his life, Fritz Leeman has been the primary inspiration for that success,” said Connie Tipton of the company’s achievements.