MILWAUKEE – A century old tradition, the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest will award students focused on the future of the industry for the 100th time this year.

Hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, the 2024 contest is set for April 17 at Milwaukee’s Baird Center, as part of CheeseExpo.

Organizers of the event noted it is designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students with appreciation for the variety and knowledge associated with the sensory attributes that characterize dairy foods.

Each year, more than 20 schools send students to the contest, which industry experts consider a valuable educational tool. Per contest organizers, students also learn about identifying defects and relating those to causative factors, as well as the dairy industry’s various career opportunities.

When the Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest debuted in 1916 (no contests were held in 1918, 1942-46 and 2020-21), butter was the only product judged due to its commercial importance at the time, organizers shared. Through the years, cheddar cheese, milk, ice cream, cottage cheese and yogurt were added to the evaluation process.

The contest’s organizers said dairy companies support it with donations, product samples and sending experts to judge, officiate and run the event.

For students in the competition, the event comes after extensive training and learning from college professors who specialize in dairy product evaluation. Over the course of decades, more than 4,000 students have experienced the contest. Organizers noted that the schools with the most team wins are South Dakota State University, The Ohio State University, Mississippi State and Iowa State University.

Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest organizers also revealed that a special centennial celebration will be part of CheeseExpo on April 17, when they plan to connect with past participants, judges, industry leaders and supporters.

More information about the contest is available online at the event’s website.