People Moving Product

Spreading a love for dairy

Pine River specializes in cheese spread

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NEWTON, Wis. – For nearly 60 years, the Lindemann family has focused on making the best cheese spread possible. Starting with quality blocks of Grade A Wisconsin Cheddar aged to perfection, the experts at Pine River near Newton create spreads loved by cheese connoisseurs from coast to coast.
“Our cheese is known for its smoothness, consistency and good flavor,” said Mary Lindemann, Pine River Marketing Director.
Made with ingredients from Wisconsin, Pine River’s award-winning cheese spreads are available in a variety of flavors from traditional favorites like Sharp Cheddar and Port Wine to more exotic options like Chunky Bleu and Hot Habanero.
“Making cheese spread is an art,” said Phil Lindemann, Pine River CEO. “The aging process and blending the different ages is where our skill comes in. We know what age of cheese to use to get the best flavor and we always strive to make our cheese spreads taste as close to a traditional natural cut of cheese as possible.”
Phil and Mary both agree that the company’s expertise in aging cheese to create the ideal flavor and texture in a spread is what makes their product stand out.
This expertise goes back five generations, starting with dairy farming in the 1800s and moving to cheesemaking. Phil’s father, Phil Sr., started Pine River in 1963 as a cutting and wrapping business. The company cut large blocks of cheddar down to exact weights which produced a lot of extra trim. Not wanting any product to go to waste, Phil Sr. developed his own cheese spread recipe using the trim, real butter, whey and other flavors. Pine River’s award-winning cheese spread was born.
Today, four new partners have joined the Lindemanns, Ian R. Behm, Cory J. Meyer, Scott M. Caliebe and Chauncey N. Behm. Together, the team is modernizing the food safety systems and elevating the company’s national presence in order to grow the business.
It seems to be working as the company’s expansions cannot keep up with the company’s explosive growth. The facility has been added onto numerous times.
“We’re always growing, and automation is a huge part of our plan for the future,” Phil said. “We’ve always had automation, but we never automate people away. We’re just making their jobs easier.”
The business employs 30 full-time people, some of whom have been with the company for 30 years. The facility is capable of producing 50,000-plus cups per shift.
The company has won many prestigious awards at the Wisconsin State Fair, World Champion Cheese Contest, the U.S. Champion Cheese Contest and World Dairy Expo.
 “Winning awards is so much fun because contests are a validation of everyone who works here – from the people who keep the plant clean to those who make the cheese,” Mary said. “We have a great team.”
Pine River’s close connection to the dairy industry emanates through everything they do.
“Without farmers, we don’t have a business,” Phil said. “The whole state has awesome milk, and there is great milk produced in this region between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan.”
Mary agreed.
“Our cheese has received many accolades, and it all starts with our dairy farmers. If they didn’t make the milk, we couldn’t make the cheese. You have to have good milk and butter to start with,” she said. “We’re also grateful to Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin which has given us wonderful opportunities for people to taste our product. It’s a tremendous organization, and they have really helped us grow.”
Pine River purchases 40-pound blocks of Grade A cheddar made fresh from a local supplier, based on the specifications they provide. The milk used to make that cheese comes from all over the state, but most is produced within a 75-mile radius of the plant. A local dairy, located right down the street, provides the Grade A butter used in every batch.
Three types of cheese spread are offered – Cold Pack, Clean Label Cold Pack and Gourmet Cheese Snack Spread. The Cold Pack product is the traditional cheese spread available in 19 flavors. The term cold pack signifies that the cheese is made without the aid of heat and remains as similar as possible to natural cuts of cheese but in a convenient spreadable form. Port Wine is the most popular flavor, followed by Sharp Cheddar and Swiss Almond.
“Spicy Beer is inching its way up in popularity as well, on the heels of Swiss Almond as the No. 3 seller,” Mary said. “Toasted Onion, Aged Asiago and Garlic and Herb are popular too. We also have four hot flavors – Jalapeno, Pepper Jack, Hot Habanero, and Ghost Pepper if people are really crazy.”
Cranberry Cheddar and Mango Habanero are the newest flavors. Pine River also makes chocolate cheese known as Dairy Fudge – a sweet treat made with Colby Cheese that Mary said is great for making smores or eating straight out of the container. Mary said the cheese spread is not only great on crackers but is also great for cooking and can liven up any recipe.
Featuring five flavors, the Clean Label Cold Pack line contains no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors and no added hormones.
The Gourmet Snack Spread is a shelf-stable product line available in nine flavors and is especially popular with retail locations with limited refrigeration.
Pine River Cheese Spread can be found in major grocery chains across the country, including local favorites Pick n’ Save, Metro Market, Woodman’s Market and Sendik’s Food Market, and available in 8-ounce and 16-ounce sizes as well as a new 2.5-ounce single-serve size.
In addition, the company offers bulk sizing for foodservice customers as well as co-packing for private label customers.
Bringing the finest quality cheese spreads to their customers’ doorsteps has been Pine River’s longtime mission. From the first spreads made in the 1960s out of cheese trim to the refined artistry of today’s cheese spread making processes, creating a top-notch product remains the company’s goal.

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