MILWAUKEE — There’s no milk, bacteria, fermentation or refrigeration at this Wisconsin cheese factory. That’s because they are making foam cheeseheads.
Ralph Bruno invented the oversized yellow wedge hat in 1987 from his mother’s couch stuffing and it has since become a popular headpiece, particularly for Wisconsin sports fans and residents.
His company, Foamation Inc., moved into a new Milwaukee location in 2016 and soon started formal factory tours where people can make their own cheeseheads or other foam products.
Tour-goers take a “Wedge of Allegiance” and hear about the history of the building, the company and Bruno himself, with a few cheese jokes thrown in. They also get to see how the foam products are made.
Bruno says his creation has become a symbol of pride for not only Wisconsinites, but for all Midwesterners. He doesn't know exactly how many have been sold, but it's enough to line cheeseheads from New York to the West Coast.
He says sales always pick up when the Packers do well, so sales should be brisk this week with the Green Bay Packers taking on the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's NFC Championship.
Bruno says his company usually has to add extra shifts to help meet demand at such times. In addition to cheeseheads, the company makes foam products including bow ties, top hats, wine toppers, baseball caps and corn-shaped hats.