Judging Process

Judge Selection

The ACS Judging & Competiton, a blind competition, strives to achieve the highest level of integrity. Each year, the J&C Committee works diligently to identify and select judges who possess the utmost levels of expertise, ethics, and reliability. ACS Judges are food professionals selected from academia and the dairy sciences industry, as well as culture manufacturers, food retailers, food distributors, and members of the food media. This process typically begins in October the year prior to each Competition and concludes in February.

Product Evaluation Process

We recognize products for their achievements in flavor, aroma, texture, and appearance. Our judges work in teams of two: one Technical and one Aesthetic. Technical Judges deduct points for flaws and defects from a perfect score of 50; Aesthetic Judges award points for outstanding characteristics and qualities to a maximum of 50. For more about the sensory characteristics of cheese, review the ACS Cheese and Dairy Product Lexicon & Glossary. 

Awards are given to cheeses and dairy products which have achieved technical excellence and exhibit the highest aesthetic qualities.

Scoring Process

Minimum scores are required to earn awards and each entry is evaluated on its own merit. Cheeses do not compete “against” each other for awards within categories and subcategories. However, assuming minimum scores are met, the three highest scores in each subcategory will place 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. (Note: an entry may receive 97 points, yet may not receive an award if other cheeses received higher scores. Only the top three scores will receive an award within each subcategory provided all minimum scores for each level are met.)

Standards of excellence apply to all entries. It is possible that awards are not earned within a category if no entry achieves a minimum number of points.

Announcement of Winners and Judge Feedback

Winners of the ACS Judging & Competition will be announced at the Awards Ceremony during the ACS Annual Conference. Winners present at the Awards Ceremony will receive a medal. Shortly after the conference, you will receive a copy of the score sheet(s) for each of your entries, including the judges’ comments, overall scores, and the number of entries per category.  Winners will also receive an official Awards Certificate and ribbon for each winning entry.

Post Competition: Festival of Cheese or Brunch of Champions

ACS will feature products entered in the Fresh Unripened Cheeses, Cultured Milk and Cream Products, and Butter categories at our Brunch of Champions held during the ACS Annual Conference. All other products that were judged in the Competition will be featured at the Festival of Cheese.