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Industry Champion Award; Andy Dederich Named WCMA Life Member; Eight Other Leaders Earn Awards

Madison—The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association (WCMA) Board of Directors has selected 12 individuals to be recognized next year at CheeseExpo for their outstanding work in the dairy processing industry.

Andy Dederich, senior key account manager with Chr. Hansen, Inc., will receive the highest honor: the WCMA Life Member Award. WCMA has offered the Life Member Award since 1918, and Dederich will be the 91st recipient.

Dederich held prominent roles at other key dairy industry companies like Cargill, Dairyland Food Labs/Sanofi and Dederich Corporation. Today, he serves several important accounts using Chr. Hansen cultures and enzymes throughout the US and Canada.

Dederich has also played a significant role in advocating for supplier and cheese manufacturer participation in WCMA through membership and activities, and worked to encourage the growth and development of the Championship Cheese Auction. He served on the WCMA board of directors from 2006-2011.

Andy Dederich is the second generation of the Dederich family to be named Life Members of the WCMA. In 1982, his parents, Carl and Georgia Dederich, received the honor.

Cheese Industry Champions: Jeff Giffin, Bob & Richard Wagner

Jeff Giffin and cousins Bob and Richard Wagner will be recognized as the 2022 WCMA Cheese Industry Champions, awards that are given to industry leaders who, through their everyday business decisions that have created tremendous opportunity for others.

Giffin is executive chairman/ board chairman of Masters Gallery Foods, having previously served as president and CEO of the company from 2006-2016. Under his leadership, the company has more than quadrupled sales revenue, volume, and employee count.

Giffin has developed lasting relationships and played a significant role in establishing Masters Gallery Foods as a leader in both retail and foodservice channels with quality private label cheese.

Bob and Richard Wagner are the third generation in a family cheesemaking tradition that first began with their grandfather, Jacob, in 1923, becoming Weyauwega Milk Products in 1961.

Bob Wagner was named president in 1984, and Richard used his engineering degree and doctorate in food science to build a cutting edge company.

Under the pair’s leadership, Weyauwega has been a pioneer in the dairy processing industry through several successful mergers. Weyauwega became Trega Foods in January 2003 and made news again five years later with the sale of Trega to Agropur, Canada’s largest dairy cooperative.

New Luminary Award Winners: Van Salmans & Cathy Strange

WCMA’s newest honor, the Luminary Award, recognizes leaders in dairy product sales and marketing; individuals who introduced new concepts, products, or innovative ideas to drive sales in the US or worldwide. The 2022 recipients of the Luminary Award are Van Salmans and Cathy Strange.

Salmans founded cheese sales and marketing organization Salmans & Associates in 1981. He evolved this small firm into a high-volume sales powerhouse, representing major cheese manufacturers to foodservice wholesalers, food processors, restaurant chains and industrial users in the Upper Midwest and select markets around the US.

Salmans worked closely with the Center of Dairy Research (CDR) and cheese manufacturers to customize products to meet foodservice, retail, and industrial demand.

Strange joined Whole Foods Market in 1990 and currently serves as global executive coordinator of specialty. She has served as an expert judge for the US and World Championship Cheese Contests for 11 years, and is a New World President and ambassador for the Guilde des Fromagers de Saint-Uguzon.

Strange has earned the French Legion of Merit for Agriculture and the Coltellino d’Oro award from the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano, and was honored in 2015 by the American Cheese Society (ACS) with the Lifetime Service Award.

Distinguished Service Awards: James Manning & Art Zimmer

WCMA’s Distinguished Service Award, reserved for respected and highly valued supplier partners to the cheese manufacturing industry, allows WCMA members to vote on prospective honorees. James Manning and Art Zimmer have been selected for the honor in 2022.

Manning is the president and founder of EDCO Food Products in Green Bay, WI. With 50 years of experience, his innovations in pepper and pickle processing have contributed to tremendous strides for the dairy processing industry. In 1992, he opened a state-of-the-art facility in Mexico.

Manning’s long-standing relationships with dairy processing suppliers have helped EDCO deliver high-quality pepper products to cheese plants across the US.

Art Zimmer entered the dairy processing arena in 1975, when he forged a successful connection between German energy-saving technology and the US market for large-capacity units of highly sanitary design.

A trailblazer in evaporator technology, he established his own Zimmer Corporation in 1994. After a highly successful run, the Carlisle Companies acquired it in 2000 to become part of CPS, which in turn was purchased by Tetra Pak.

Zimmer then founded Caloris in July 2006. The company grew into a highly-respected organization and in 2014, he and his partners sold the majority of Caloris to outside investors.

Vanguard Award: Steve Ottiger And Steve Yeager

Steve Ottiger and Steve Yeager have both earned the WCMA Vanguard Award, which recognizes cheese makers or cheese manufacturing employees whose work helped to blaze new trails in dairy operations.

Ottiger earned his cheese maker title in his native Switzerland before arriving in Wisconsin in 1959. In 1961, he began a life-long career producing award-winning, Swiss style cheeses in the United States.

For 34 years, Ottiger worked at Alpine Alpa in Wilmot, OH, where his experience included a plant upgrade featuring the first Casomatic cheesemaking system in the US.

In 1997, Ottiger helped establish a highly-automated Swiss cheese plant, the success of which continues to this day; Guggisberg Cheese has won Ohio Grand Champion Cheesemaker honors in eight of the last 10 years, and captured top honors in both the 2015 and 2019 US Championship Cheese Contest.

Yeager found his passion for cheesemaking during a summer job at Borden Foods in Wisconsin in 1976, which turned into full-time cheesemaking and product quality/grading roles.

In 1994, he moved to California and began his career at Hilmar Cheese Company as supervisor. Yeager advanced to whey lab manager, plant manager, and then the cheese technical manager at Hilmar’s formidible cheese plant in Dalhart, TX.

Yeager now serves as cheese product specialist, research and development, where he works to make sure that Hilmar cheese exceeds customers’ expectations.

Babcock Award: Mark Johnson And Paul Kindstedt

WCMA’s Babcock Award recognizes those in academia who partner with cheese makers for industry innovation and excellence. The 2022 receipients are Mark Johnson and Paul Kindstedt.

Johnson serves as assistant director, distinguished scientist, and a member of the senior management team at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR). Johnson has been with CDR for 30-plus years.

In addition to teaching courses on cheesemaking and grading, his main research focuses on developing manufacturing and ripening protocols for specialty cheeses, and solving cheese quality issues.

Johnson has served as a technical judge for the US and World Championship Cheese Contests, the American Cheese Society, and the Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

Kindstedt, a professor of food science at the University of Vermont, has authored numerous research articles and invited papers for conferences on dairy chemistry and cheese science. His research focuses on crystal formation in cheese, and their effect on cheese appearance and flavor.

Kindstedt received national recognition for both his research and teaching, and currently serves as the president of the American Dairy Science Association.

Awards will be presented to all honorees during CheeseExpo, scheduled for April 12-14, 2022 in Milwaukee, WI.

For more information and to register to attend CheeseExpo, visit

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