The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) today recognized the remarkable leadership of Jim Sartori, chairman and former CEO of Sartori Company, and Larry Webster, former CEO of Upstate Niagara Cooperative, by honoring each with the IDFA Laureate Award during the association’s annual Dairy Forum. Now in its fourth year, the IDFA Laureate Award is given to a leader in the dairy industry who has made significant, prolonged contributions to the development and growth of dairy. Candidates from across the dairy industry as well as suppliers and academics are eligible, and the awardee is chosen by a panel of industry professionals.
Jim Sartori is chairman of the board of Sartori Company, a family-owned company specializing in artisan, award-winning Wisconsin cheese. Since 1939, Sartori Company has crafted cheese that honors its Italian traditions while embracing the ingenuity of its team members. Jim Sartori took the reins of the organization in 1986, and for over three decades, he led Sartori Cheese through a tremendous era of growth and opportunity. Investments and expansions have allowed Sartori Cheese to develop into a premium retail brand that is now available in more than 50 countries around the world. Sartori served on the IDFA Cheese Segment Board as well as the board of the National Cheese Institute. Jim and his wife Jan, have been married for 44 years, and have three children and nine grandchildren.
“Jim Sartori has taken the Sartori Company and the broader cheese industry to new heights,” said Michael Dykes, D.V.M., president and CEO of IDFA. “Jim built on his family’s tradition of excellence in cheesemaking, and he grew the company to what it is today – an internationally-renowned cheesemaking champion, the pride of Plymouth, Wisconsin, and a beloved brand in stores in every U.S. state and 50 countries around the world.”
“I am very grateful and honored to receive the IDFA Laureate Award,” said Sartori. “It has been a privilege and a blessing to lead Sartori Company for the last 36 years. Thank you to our customers, team members, family farms - and God. Jan and I are proud to pass the torch to our son Bert, who represents the fourth generation of Sartori family leadership.”
Larry Webster served as chief executive officer of Upstate Niagara Cooperative, Inc. and general manager of O-AT-KA Milk Products. Webster’s career of more than 45 years has been spent working exclusively in agribusiness and spanned three Fortune 500 companies and one large independent. He joined Upstate Niagara in 2005, oversaw completion of the merger of Upstate Farms Cooperative and Niagara Milk Cooperative, and led the organization through a period of tremendous growth. In addition, Webster served on the IDFA Executive Council, the IDFA Fluid Milk Board, and the Milk Industry Foundation Board of Directors. He is married with three children and eight grandchildren.
“Larry is an exemplary leader who spent his distinguished career dedicated to dairy and the broader food and beverage business,” said Dykes. “He oversaw exponential growth and expansion into new dairy categories for Upstate Niagara. He set an example of leadership and innovation both within his company and for the entire industry. I’m pleased to present Larry with the IDFA Laureate Award in recognition of his many contributions to the growth of the U.S. dairy industry.”
“There’s no higher award than award from peers,” said Webster. “I’ve been blessed throughout my career to be surrounded by talented, driven people. I’m so humbled and grateful to receive the IDFA Laureate Award.”
Previous recipients of the IDFA Laureate Award are: Ed Mullins, senior executive officer of Prairie Farms Dairy, Inc. (2022); Dan Zagzebski, president and CEO of Great Lakes Cheese (2022); Sue Taylor, vice president of dairy economics and policy for Leprino Foods Company (2021); and Andrei Mikhalevsky, former president and CEO of California Dairies, Inc. (2020).
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The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Washington, D.C., represents the nation’s dairy manufacturing and marketing industry, which supports more than 3.3 million jobs that generate $41.6 billion in direct wages and $753 billion in overall economic impact. IDFA’s diverse membership ranges from multinational organizations to single-plant companies, from dairy companies and cooperatives to food retailers and suppliers, all on the cutting edge of innovation and sustainable business practices. Together, they represent 90 percent of the milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt and cultured products, and dairy ingredients produced and marketed in the United States and sold throughout the world. Delicious, safe and nutritious, dairy foods offer unparalleled health and consumer benefits to people of all ages.