Legend has it the company name "Challenge" was selected by the first President of Challenge Cream and Butter Association, J.P. Murphy, as he traveled from the San Joaquin Valley to Los Angeles to begin his new assignment to sell cooperative butter. Over dinner, he studied a mural on the wall that showed two elk coming together to spar for the position of "king of the forest." Under this mural were the words, "The Challenge."
At the time, Mr. Murphy felt that this was exactly what he and the dairymen he represented were trying to accomplish. They were challenging the other dairy organizations with a product that was known for its quality.
So began a tradition that has continued for over 100 years – a tradition built on quality and service. Challenge controls production from the farm to the creamery to the customer ensuring that consumers receive the highest quality and freshest butter possible. And even though the scale of our operation has grown, we still make butter the old fashion way with natural ingredients, attention to detail, and hard work.
On January 2, 1911, The Challenge Cream & Butter Company opened for business in a rented storeroom in Los Angeles to sell products from cooperative creamery associations located in Riverdale and Tulare. The new company had four employees and a wagon, but had to rent a horse to pull it.
That first day, Joe Spence, the delivery salesman, set out in the wagon with 132 pounds of Challenge butter. He returned that evening with 120.
Over the course of the next few months and because of the determined efforts of men who tramped incessantly from store to store demonstrating the higher qualities of the farmers' own butter, the brand caught the public's interest, and sales increased dramatically until the Challenge brand became the best selling butter in the West.
Challenge not only pioneered quality in butter products, but also produced several manufacturing innovations that revolutionized the industry, including the aluminum butter churn and the shipment of butter in corrugated cases – processes that continue today.
Challenge's mechanical department developed different metals as a replacement to wood churns. They experimented with the cast aluminum alloys for a full year to determine the best resistance of corrosion from the acid in the cream and the salt.
For many years, all bulk butter was shipped in wooden containers (tubs in the east and central west, 68-pound spruce cubes in the west), which added to freight costs. Experiments by Challenge enabled conversion from wood to corrugated cases. The movement spread throughout the United States, and within a few years, wooden containers for bulk butter became obsolete.
Challenge has also been a leader in advertising and promotion. In 1911, its first year of operation, a Challenge advertisement appeared on the first lighted billboard in Los Angeles. The company's slogan in those days was "Better buy better butter."
Learn more about Challenge Dairy's history by checking out Challenge's 100 Year Historic Timeline.