The 91st Annual Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest will be held on November 3, 2012, in Springfield, Illinois. DairiConcepts, LLC, will host the competition.

The Collegiate Dairy Products Evaluation Contest provides a venue for college students to test their skills against one another in the fine art of sensory evaluation. Supported by industry partners and coordinated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the event has reorganized and reinvigorated its leadership and industry alliances over the last five years. Industry and University supporters of the contest have now formed a non-profit organization that allows them to continue this 90-year tradition.

Companies support the contest by donating and storing dairy food samples, as well as providing proctors, scorers, judges, and venues for the contest. Cash donations cover awards, operating expenses and travel stipends for competing teams.

Because an instrument has not yet been found that evaluates the sensory attributes of food products with the precision, discretion and accuracy of human beings, this contest culminates a course of education of trained palates. Here is how it works:

Nationally recognized experts in each of the six product categories – 2% milk, butter, cottage cheese, Cheddar cheese, Swiss-style strawberry yogurt and vanilla ice cream – collect representative samples from around the United States. These experts then apply their expertise to score each of the products using a very specialized score card.

Each contestant's challenge is to return a score card that comes as close as possible to replicating the score card created by the judges. Scoring is based upon how far the contestant's score differs from the experts. The top individuals in each product category and overall are recognized, as well as the top schools and coaches.

This contest and the college curricula that support it help create a pool of highly trained candidates for key positions in the dairy industry covering product development, processing and quality control. It is an experience that encourages dairy and food science students to focus their skills toward the improvement of dairy products, and it also provides potential employers with a gauge to help evaluate an applicant's potential.