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Small Business Successes

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), Commodity Operations, Domestic Procurement Division procures large volumes of cheese each year for the National School Lunch Program, household programs, and food banks—with USDA historically being the 4th largest cheese buyer in the U.S. For over 15 years USDA has contracted with Masters Gallery Foods, Inc., utilizing their production capacity in addition to others in the industry to obtain the large volumes of Natural American cheddar and mozzarella cheese needed for USDA programs. Masters Gallery outstanding performance won them the FSA small business contractor of the year award in fiscal year 2006. They continue to provide consistent, high level service in fulfilling their cheese contracts.

Masters Gallery is a family-owned and operated business founded in 1974 by entrepreneur Leonard “Butch” Gentine, Jr. It has grown from a small Plymouth, Wisconsin based cheese-brokerage firm to one of the leading national cheese suppliers—selling millions of pounds of top-quality cheese every year. In 1989, Masters Gallery constructed their own production and distribution facility, allowing them to produce consumer and institutional pack sizes during the 1990s—including innovations such as the first private label resealable shredded cheese packages. In 2000, and again in 2009, Masters Gallery doubled its plant size and it grew from 175 employees to their present day size of 400 associates.

Masters Gallery Foods maintains one of the largest privately held cheese inventories in the country. Much of their cheese is from premier producers who sell most–if not all–of their production to them. This allows them to offer a wide range of choices to customers, including myriad flavor and functional characteristics, such as aged cheddars, mozzarella, and reduced fat cheeses. The ability to supply these various types of cheese is essential to USDA in order that it meet the menu and nutritional requirements of its food assistance programs’ missions as well as recipients’ tastes.

Even with the large quantities of cheese purchased from multiple suppliers, USDA has worked with the cheese industry to achieve, and now maintain, a 98% on-time delivery rate for its program recipients. Masters Gallery Foods contributes to this success with consistent timely deliveries of quality cheese. They deliver product with the right flavor, stretch and melt performance for the right application. Their multiple storage facilities allow them to house extensive inventories of cheese, thereby helping their customers manage risk, hedge the dairy market, maintain fixed pricing and/or procure just-in-time inventories.

We compliment Masters Gallery Foods, Inc. as a great small business success story and we appreciate their continued interest and participation in support of USDA Foods.