First Choice Ingredients

First Choice Ingredients (FCI) was founded by Jim Pekar in 1994. Pekar started FCI because he saw a need in the industry for a dairy company that was both nimble and highly technical. FCI has extremely modest roots; the vision began in a basement with just 2 employees...they now have a state-of-the-art facility and 85 employees on staff.

As FCI has grown massively over the past 22 years and earned a position as one of the most highly respected dairy manufacturing companies in the US (and secured some of the smartest, most experienced scientists in this segment), they have always maintained a blue collar Wisconsin persona. FCI is proud to be a Wisconsin dairy company that puts hard work and perseverance above all.

Led by former Iowa Hawkeyes defensive lineman Jim Pekar, First Choice Ingredients is the product of a lifetime of hard work, discipline and determination. Jim learned these values from Hall of Fame Coach, Hayden Frye and puts them to work every day.
— First Choice Ingredients


FCI currently has 21 process vessels with batch capability of 250 – 12,000kg each. They have had 5 plant expansions since 2002. And in 2016, their growth story continues! Take a peek at the below flow chart demonstrating how FCI has outgrown several locations and expanded numerous times to keep up with customer demand, an efficient, organized plant, and sufficient warehousing:


Novel Technology  

First Choice’s team includes some of the top dairy scientists in America. Their lab has an expertise in fermentation, dairy innovation, enzyme modification, reaction and compounding technologies. FCI’s scientists have the ability to create flavors that are rich in desirable compounds, free from off-flavors, and have enhanced strength (5 - 20x concentration). With this advanced EMC (enzyme modified cheese) technology, they have the ability to naturally create the effect of a five year aged cheese in a matter of hours.

  • FCI has perfected the ability to create what nature does to dairy, in a short process 
  • FCI can create specific notes of “aged”, “sharp”, “nutty”, etc., to support signature flavored products
  • Very clean profiles, not artificial tastingbecause most ingredients are made from real dairy
  • Clean label concentrates allow for labels as clean as “Cheese” or "Heavy Cream"

R&D Directors: 


Pam Gribou:

"When it comes to creative flavor problem solving, Pam is known as one of the foremost experts in the dairy industry. As the former Director of Cheese and Dairy Development at the world’s largest flavor company, Pam brings over three decades of experience to First Choice. Pam directs our Applications team and is constantly working to bring new and interesting product innovations to our customers."

Roger Mullins:

"Roger is the science behind the flavors at First Choice Ingredients. With decades of experience creating customized flavor profiles and a variety of products for Fortune 500 food companies, Roger is in charge of all research and development at First Choice Ingredients. Roger leads a team of food scientists, technologists and chemists in the lab and on the production floor, making sure all First Choice products are in compliance and continue to meet the high standards..."


Wisconsin Dairy Farm

Wisconsin Dairy Farm

Over the past 22 years, First Choice has built loyal relationships with numerous Wisconsin, family-owned farms. FCI’s supply chain knowledge from local farms and creameries allow their group to provide confidence in  organic, documentation for project-verified non-GMO requests, rBST-free, and rigorous, customer regulatory programs that demand the utmost transparency.

NSF: SQF 2000 Level 2 Accredited

Part of HACCP program

Many FCI products are available Kosher, Halal and Organic.


Feel Good About Working With First Choice

First Choice Ingredients is proud to offer a premium healthcare benefits package to all employees—to keep their team healthy & happy.

The First Choice Lab

The First Choice Lab

"The 'Choose Health! Health & Wellness Program' was first implemented in January of 2015. This program was designed to encourage our employees to make healthier lifestyle choices and improve their overall well-being. Throughout the year, employees are given the opportunity to participate in a series of activities. Participation yields points, which in turn yields rewards, with the ultimate reward being 2 paid vacation days, redeemable at the end of the end of 2016. The activities can be physical or mental, group- or individual-based, but all are designed to help promote healthy minds, bodies, and spirits."

- First Choice Ingredients