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The Oamaru-based company has been awarded a silver medal in the blue vein division of the 2016 World Championship Cheese Contest in the United States, the world's largest cheese, butter and yoghurt competition.
The contest, hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, attracted a record 2948 entries from 25 countries. Judges came from all over the world and included Fonterra research technologist Andrew Legg.
It was the first time Whitestone Cheese has entered the awards and the silver medal was the highest award achieved by a New Zealand entry.
Chief executive Simon Berry was delighted with the success, saying it showed the quality of the company's North Otago-sourced milk and farming environment, and the skill of its cheesemakers.
Of Whitestone Cheese's 10 entries, seven received aggregate scores greater than 97%. The highest score went to the Lindis Pass Camembert with 98.95, followed by Vintage Windsor Blue and Manuka Smoked Butter, both with 98.75.
Judge Dominique Delugeau scored the Lindis Pass Camembert - which was developed in-house by the cheesemaking team and launched this summer - 99.5, the highest individual score achieved by Whitestone Cheese.
Achieving scores of that calibre on the international stage was ‘‘quite overwhelming'', Mr Berry said.
‘‘It shows a small artisan company can produce a world-class product that really stands up,'' he said.
The unique blue mould strain was developed at Whitestone Cheese in 2005. Having a point of difference in product to market, such as the blue cheese, was a key for the business, he said.
Whitestone Cheese has now been invited to receive the medal at an awards banquet in Wisconsin on April 14.
Whitestone Cheese has about 65 staff, with a cheesemaking team of 12, which included five lead cheesemakers. Winning such awards was a team effort involving everyone, Mr Berry said.
Further expansion was planned at its Oamaru site to increase capacity and it would keep innovating. Demand continued to grow, particularly domestically, although the latest success would benefit marketing in the United States.
Whitestone Cheese is sold in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Qatar, Fiji, Japan and Dubai.
China was ‘‘definitely on the radar'' and the Chinese were only now discovering specialty cheeses, he said.