This group says “cheese” with no prompting from photographers. Founded in 1983, the American Cheese Society (ACS) promotes and supports the cheese industry with educational resources and networking opportunities, “while encouraging the highest standards of cheesemaking focused on safety and sustainability,” said Nerissa Magnuson, conference planner at Civica Management, who helps organize ACS’s events.
The ACS Annual Conference attracts international retailers, importers, distributors, food writers, academics, and, of course, artisan cheesemakers — some of whom participate in the American Cheese Society Judging & Competition (J&C). The largest judging and competition of its kind for American-made cheeses, J&C is typically held during the annual in-person conference. The organization is reimagining how it can best offer this element of the event to members later in 2021 while maintaining its integrity, according to ACS’s website.
Shooting the Bries
The ACS Annual Conference will be virtual for the second year in a row, but event organizers are ensuring participants will have opportunities to interact online. Popular in-person sessions will be recreated in a virtual format, like “Meet the Cheesemaker,” in which cheesemakers share their products while networking with one another. Topics discussed during the 30 educational sessions at the three-day conference will include
- Climate Change and Sustainability
- Advancements in Science and Academia
- Navigating COVID-19
Curds From Whey
The American cheese industry is coming out the other side of a difficult year due to the pandemic. “Distribution channels — often restaurants and other food services — shifted, and many were decimated by closures related to the virus,” Magnuson said. “In many cases, our members are using this as an opportunity to pause and improve business models, as well as explore new methods to package and distribute their products directly to consumers,” she said, adding that ACS has worked to highlight the resilience of the industry and innovation among its membership. This year’s event will underscore the industry’s perseverance through the theme “New Voices, New Normal, New ACS.”
Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.