A Brief History…
The American Cheese Society was founded in 1983 by Dr. Frank Kosikowski of Cornell University as a national grassroots organization for cheese appreciation and for home and farm cheesemaking.
The first annual meeting was held in the summer of 1983 at Cornell, with 150 attendees made up of small-scale and home cheesemakers, retailers, academics and cheese enthusiasts. A slate of officers was elected and a Constitution and Bylaws were adopted at that first meeting, laying the foundation for future growth.
The early years were marked by slow growth as the fledgling, all-volunteer organization coalesced through the dedicated efforts of a small circle of leaders from cheesemaking, academia and retail.
The Competition began in 1985 at the Third Annual conference. 30 cheesemakers entered 89 cheeses in 7 categories. A mini Festival of Cheese was also held that year.
A very successful 5th Annual Conference was held at the Four Seasons Boston and generated much press coverage. The script logo debuted at this conference. There were 170 entries in the competition and the first cheese sale/auction raised $800 for the Society.
Growing pains were evident over the next few years. No conference was held in 1988 and several small conferences followed as the Society struggled to redefine itself, its mission and develop a flourishing, inclusive member base.
The 1990s saw additional growth of the organization and American cheese. Through the efforts of the Society and its members, the quality and number of American cheeses increased and they became more mainstream and available at specialty retailers nationwide. Spurred by a number of books and articles on cheese and a large presence at gala foodie events in large cities, awareness grew.
The membership and competition grew and coalesced around some key issues including the preservation of Raw Milk cheeses. In March 2000, the Cheese of Choice Coalition was formed by the ACS and Oldways Preservation Trust.
The early 2000’s brought additional structure and focus to the organization as a redefined mission statement and expanded committees advanced the organization, setting the stage for explosive growth from 2003 to 2008.
During the last six years, membership increased from 776 members in 2003 to more than 1,200 members in 2009. At the same time, competition entries increased from 762 cheeses to 1,327 cheeses.
In 2010 ACS took its next important step by becoming a fully self-managed organization. Bringing together a talented and committed staff, the association is now poised to better serve its members, develop new and exciting member benefits, serve as a central resource for the American artisanal cheese industry, and reach out to educate consumers about the joys of cheese and cheesemaking.
Currently, ACS has 1,700 members across the industry. Our 2016 Judging & Competition saw a record 1,843 products entered from 260 different companies.
From humble beginnings and guided by a vision that American Cheese could mean more than sliced single and that a community of cheese could be created, hundreds of dedicated and passionate individuals have united to create a vibrant and flourishing Society poised to continue to push the limits in the next quarter century.