The South African Dairy Championships, sponsored by DuPont, created a wave of excitement by exceeding its previous records for both the number of entries and producers.  A phenomenal 895 dairy products from 85 producers were entered into 97 different classes this year. These products were judged by a team of 72 experts on 10 March 2016 at Grand West, Cape Town.

“This new record is a clear indication of the commitment and dedication of the dairy industry to continuously improve the quality and marketability of their products. It also shows the trust and high regard producers still have in a championship that dates back to humble beginnings in 1833”, says Johan Ehlers, CEO of Agri-Expo.

Kieran Quinn, Southern Africa Sales Leader for DuPont Nutrition & Health, concurs with Ehlers. “DuPont is proud to sponsor the South African Dairy Championships, recognizing local dairy excellence throughout the value chain.  The Championships honour dairy manufacturers for their hard work in delivering quality and innovative products to market.  It provides a unique platform to celebrate industry success which translates into local consumer recognition.”

The surprising increase of goat’s milk cheeses, which stand at 32 percent more than last year, shows that goat’s milk cheeses are playing a much bigger role in the South African diet, especially since this type of cheese is increasingly used by the hospitality industry. Well-known cheeses such as gouda, cheddar, feta and mozzarella remain at a steady entry level, despite the growth in other types of cheese entries. Ice cream, which is still a fairly small category in the championships, shows an interesting trend from only commercial product entries in the past to entries from small, artisanal producers.

Judges play a critical role in championships of this nature. “The expertise of the judges elevates the championships to a level of exceptional quality”, says dairy expert and chief judge, Kobus Mulder. Mulder himself adds 50 years of international experience to the SA Dairy Championships. But this is also an ideal opportunity to grow new talent, therefore Linnea Burnham, a young student from the United States of America, was invited as a guest-judge at the 2016 SA Dairy Championships. This experience gave her first hand knowledge of the supreme quality and a wide selection of South African dairy products. Burnham received a bursary to study cheese in any country across the world and she chose South Africa as one of six countries for her training.

“It is great to be a part of this (the championships) and fantastic to see South African cheeses progressing and becoming more sophisticated each year,” says Pete Goffe-Wood, well-known food alchemist who has been judging in the cheese category of the championships for a number of years.

After an intense day of judging, followed by a strict audit process, the products are awarded as SA Dairy Champions, which are winners in each of the 97 classes in the eight categories, namely cheese, butter, yoghurt, dairy dessert, cottage cheese, ice cream, cultured and flavoured milk and dairy dips. The Qualité mark is awarded to products of excellence and the overall winning product receive the Dairy Product of the Year accolade.

The winners will be announced at the prestigious Agri-Expo Qualité Awards Dinner on 27 April 2016 at Grand West, Cape Town.