Vaccine ramps up dry ice production, concerning cheesemakers

Dry ice is a key component in cheesemaking.

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association sent a letter to state and federal leaders concerned about supply.

Those making dry ice say they are ramping up production to meet demand. It is a huge undertaking —with a lot of unknowns.

"All of us are looking forward to us being a part of this solution," Neal Gruber said. "We are in a position today where we are in a wait mode."

Neal Gruber is the CEO of A+ Heler's Dry Ice and CO2.

The business has been bolstering production as hospitals and clinics across the state prepare to store and distribute Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

It must be kept at extremely cold temperatures...

"We have been discussing and then planning in order to address in meeting an undefined demand," he said.

Neal Gruber

That means dedicating resources to the health care industry--while keeping a supply for existing customers.

"We know that demand for dry ice is up," Gruber said.

The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association is watching what happens closely.

Dry ice is used by the dairy industry to keep cultures at cold temperatures.

Rebekah Sweeney of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association

"We do have one purpose for dry ice that cannot be substituted and that is in the manufacturing and distribution of dairy cultures," Rebekah Sweeney said.

The Cheese Makers Association sent a letter to federal and state leaders informing them that 350,000 pounds of dry ice is used each week to make cheese.

"There’s a lot of concern in our industry right now because there is no substitute for dairy cultures and there’s no substitute for dry ice," she said.

As one industry booms — another watches with concern — and is asking that a need be met for everyone.

"We’re cheering the arrival of the vaccine like everyone else, but we also have this essential need that we have to meet too," she said.

The Cheese Makers Association says a big problem there is no way to stockpile dairy cultures or dry ice.

Meantime, that Madison dry ice company says it will likely be hiring more people to keep up with demand.