AUSTIN, Texas (September 14, 2018) – Whole Foods Market team members now account for over half of the American Cheese Society’s 2018 class of Certified Cheese Professionals (CCPs), after the latest group passed the esteemed exam held July 25, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The 2018 class included 120 new CCPs, comprised of 61 Whole Foods Market team members. To date, Whole Foods Market has supported the development of 527 team member CCPs out of a total of 1033 worldwide, making the company the largest employer of CCPs worldwide.

“The American Cheese Society’s CCP designation is the highest standard for cheese professionals, encouraging excellence, expertise and continuing education in the industry. We are proud to have a growing number of CCPs among our ranks,” said Joey Wells, global senior coordinator of specialty cheese at Whole Foods Market. “Our customers and team members benefit from the knowledge of our in-house CCPs, who are passionate, friendly, and excited to serve as a resource for any request or occasion.”

To become a CCP, applicants participate in a 6-month training program. In addition to hundreds of hours of self-guided studies, the preparation process includes weekly webinars and educational trips, led by the retailers’ global specialty team and other cheese industry experts.  

The final exam tests cheesemongers on elements of cheese production from inception to consumption; topic areas include storage and handling, nutrition, distribution, raw materials, the ripening and making processes, and cheese varieties.

At Whole Foods Market, cheese experts ensure that stores offer a diverse selection of the highest quality cheeses, all of which are free of rBST, artificial flavors, colors and preservatives. Each Whole Foods Market store offers between 250 and 1,000 types of cheese sourced from artisan cheesemakers around the world.

Over the years, Whole Foods Market has become known throughout the industry as a retailer with superior customer service and team member expertise. As of 2018, more than 720 team members have completed at least a Level 1 Cicerone certification, and more than 370 team members have passed their introductory sommelier exam since 2005. In-store sommeliers and cicerones work in tandem with Whole Foods Market CCPs to provide best in class beverage and cheese pairings.

In addition to the growing number of certified experts in the specialty department, Whole Foods Market has educated 290 meat team members through their Meat Apprenticeship Program, an 18-month training program designed to transform aspiring butchers into skilled meat cutters with a deep understanding of quality, animal welfare, meat preparation and culinary techniques. 

For a complete list of Certified Cheese Professionals, visit To learn more about team member growth and development opportunities at Whole Foods Market, visit