Family business' cheese sold nationwide, and in 23 countries; employs 500 locally.
When Norman F. Biery founded the business that would become Biery Cheese in 1929, he was working hard to get his family through the Great Depression.
He never dreamed the company would eventually cut and package enough cheese annually to provide the equivalent of approximately five slices to each U.S. citizen (about 1.5 billion).
He also didn’t envision the company one day employing 500 people in Louisville and 150 in Plover, Wisc.
But, Norman knew a focus on excellence and maintaining a commitment to the family’s values of hard work and dedication would lead to good things.
Nearly 90 years later, success continues for Biery Cheese. And, it’s not by accident.
CEO Ben Biery, a fourth generation family member, is guiding the business. He’s inspired every day by the legacy his great grandfather (Norman), grandfather (Harold) and father (Dennis) worked so hard to create.
“We’re constantly looking at how to evolve,” Ben said. “But, we always keep an eye on our roots.”
Biery crafts 160 varieties of cheese. Products include sliced, block and shredded cheeses, artisan-style cheeses, and party trays featuring cheeses, meats and crackers.
“Our first product was Swiss cheese,” Ben said. “Best sellers today rotate between Swiss, provolone and cheddar.”
Biery also has a line of non-dairy and analogue (reduced dairy) cheeses, since some customers request them.
The bulk of Biery’s business is private labeling for some of the top brands in the U.S. and internationally.
“Cheese is huge for snacking,” Ben said. “Plus, it’s got a lot of protein, which makes it very popular right now.”
Biery sells to independent distributors, large chains and smaller local chains.
Good customer service is vital. Customers depend on Biery to provide quality products delivered on time.
“We gauge ourselves with service rating scorecards,” Ben said. “We aim to reach service levels others try to emulate.”
Quality, consistent products are a Biery tradition. This led the company to institute a rigorous quality assurance program.
“We work hard to ensure every product meets our strict quality specifications,” Ben said. “It’s how we earn our customers’ trust.”
Reliable employees are another reason Biery has seen success throughout four generations.
“We’ve built a culture of empowerment,” Ben said. “We’re serious about our business, but we have fun doing it. We don’t want anyone to dread going to work.”
An intentional creative approach also serves Biery well.
“We stay in tune with trends our customers are seeing, and often that leads to line extensions,” Ben said. “We like to call it developing ‘cheese solutions’ for our customers.”
A recent example is a new line of cheese snack rounds in a stand-up pouch — hunks of cheddar, bacon, pepperoni and hot pepper cheeses that are easy to grab and go.
Biery also private labels mozzarella, cheddar and Gouda cheese snack rounds for a customer.
Biery has one manufacturing operation in Louisville. Its second is about an hour and a half north of Madison, Wisc., which was acquired in 2013.
Biery competes against large national brands, some mid-sized regional brands and some smaller artisan producers.
In chunk, shredded and sliced cheese, there’s a lot of competition. But Biery separates itself by getting into unique products that help create memories.
“We focus on products that can be enjoyed during memorable occasions, like parties and family reunions,” Ben said. “That includes our meat, cheese and cracker trays, our snack sticks and our snack rounds.”
Biery has expanded through organic growth, and finding new and bigger customers. The company’s products are sold nationwide and in 23 different countries, including Mexico and South Korea, and even in the Middle East.
Community is important. Biery supports the United Way and 4-H in Ohio and Wisconsin. The company also supports Louisville schools, and Malone, Mount Union and Walsh universities, donates cheese baskets to multiple local events, and assists local hunger organizations.
Ben and the Biery team will continue to operate by the traditional values of the three earlier generations of Bierys. They’ll also make adjustments to ensure continued success.
“Today’s Biery Cheese will be obsolete in 10 years,” Ben said. “The way people buy groceries is changing. We’ve got to expand our product offering and how we get products to market.”
With a solid business foundation and family legacy, a top-notch work force and quality products, Biery Cheese should continue thriving for at least another 90 years.