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C-Level: Kim Wall provides the ‘lips behind the kiss’ at Ma Baensch

November 10, 2018 | Permalink

Steve Jagler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Nov. 9, 2018

Baensch Food Products Co. is a small company that must constantly be prepared for big  changes in the food and beverage industry.


Kim Wall, president of the Milwaukee company that produces Ma Baensch herring, says preemptive flexibility is crucial to survival in an industry that is perpetually evolving to meet changing preferences of foodies and governmental regulations.


Shortly after acquiring the company in 1999, Wall worked with Wisconsin grocers to move the familiar Ma Baensch herring jars from their dairy sections to the meat and seafood sections of their   stores. Wall then worked to achieve the official kosher certification from the Chicago Rabbinical Council to appeal to a wider customer base.


More recently, Wall decided to modify Ma Baensch’s herring recipes to achieve a “clean label,” signifying a completely “transparent” product void of any preservatives or generically categorized “all natural” ingredients.That also meant changing the original recipe of the late Lena Baensch’s Wine Herring.


“Lena’s original marinade formula only called for six ounces of white wine in a 160-gallon batch. Due to some consumer concerns regarding consuming alcohol, it made sense just to remove the wine entirely,” Wall said. 


For the record, no one’s getting pickled on Wall’s watch.


With the change, the name of the company’s signature product is now called Ma Baensch Original Recipe Marinated Herring.


All the ingredients in the marinade are now listed individually on the label: clove, bay leaf, cassia, nutmeg, red pepper and cardamom. In addition, Wall decided to remove the preservative from her Ma Baensch Sour Cream & Chive Herring.


She also replaced liquid beet sugar, which was declared genetically modified, with liquid cane sugar, which is not GMO.


Wall is gearing up for her company’s busiest season, when herring is a staple at many Wisconsin holiday parties. The season accounts for 50 percent to 60 percent of the firm’s annual sales.


“We like to say it goes from deer hunting to New Year’s Eve at midnight,” Wall said.


How much herring, wild caught in the Atlantic Ocean near Newfoundland, Canada, will her small business at 1025 E. Locust St. produce this season?


“Hopefully enough for everyone to have what they want,” Wall said. The company brags that it has been providing the “kiss of health” since 1932. Ma Baensch’s website describes Wall as the “lips behind the kiss.”


In case you are wondering, the red lipstick print on the Ma Baensch label on the jar is indeed a replica of Wall’s lips.


“It’s something happy. If you’re eating herring, it’s a holiday. It’s a gathering. And a little sexy,” Wall said.


And beginning with the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, Wall will begin planning to keep up with the next round of changing consumer preferences. The company has an ongoing challenge in introducing herring fillets to millennials, Wall said.


“Snacking is huge with millennials. They snack four or five times a day. And we are the Wisconsin sushi,” Wa ll said. “It is a healthy protein, rich in omega 3.”


One of her major wholesale clients, Kroger Co., the parent company of Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Pick ‘n Save, Metro Market and Copps stores, recently announced its top five food trends of 2019, as curated by its team of new product developers, chefs and innovators:


1. Regional flavors. “Foods influenced by regions across the country are bringing flavor and fun to any meal. From tried-and-true barbecue sauces and flavorful potato chips with a twist — inspiration is coming from Nashville hot chicken, Southern Appalachian pimento cheese and other geographies. America’s culinary heritage is as varied as it is delicious. Consumers will see a growing number of products influenced by local, regional and global tastes,” Kroger said.


2. Plant-based foods. “Consumers are finding it is easier than ever before to incorporate more plant-based fare into their daily diets. By electing to go meat or dairy free, whether for a meal, a meatless Monday, flexitarian Friday or every day of the week, there will be more plant-based options available to power through the day. Last year, 31 percent of consumers participated in meat-free days once per week,” Kroger said.


3. Eating styles. “More consumers are purchasing better-for-you products and subscribing to different eating styles, from vegetarian to flexitarian to keto and paleo. A recent study reports 15 percent of the U.S. population identify as vegetarian or vegan,” Kroger said.


4. Gut-healthy foods. “Medical studies show that a healthy gut is the foundation of overall wellness, and more than ever before, consumers are seeking foods that support self-care and healthy immune systems. Consumers will find a growing number of products rich in probiotics — good bacteria — and flavor,” Kroger said.


5. Low sugar and natural sweeteners. “Many consumers are motivated to reduce or eliminate sugar and/or consume alternate natural sweeteners like honey and agave. … New solutions and foods will continue to be added to grocery shelves to help consumers find products rich in nutrition and flavor and lean on sugar,” Kroger said.




Kim Wall

Title: President


Company: Baensch Food Products Co., Milwaukee


Hometown: Beloit


Residence: St. Francis


Education: Graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, with a double major in accounting and economics


Family: Her dog, Blu, and her cat, Dickens


Best advice ever received: “At the ripe old age of 6 my dad told me my career choices were doctor, lawyer or CPA. So, I have always known that a woman could steer any ship.”


Favorite movie: “Deadpool”


Favorite musical artist: Todd Rundgren


Favorite Wisconsin restaurants: Breakfast, Sheridan’s in St. Francis; lunch, Lake Park Bistro in Milwaukee; and dinner, Odd Duck in Bay View


After hours: “Using live bait, I have caught 21 different species of freshwater fish in the Mississippi River and turned many of them into delicious meals.”

Wisconsin’s food and beverage industry

October 18, 2018 | Permalink

By Patrick Leary


October 18, 2018


If you ask experts like FaB Wisconsin’s Shelley Jurewicz, Wisconsin’s food and beverage industry is growing.


Still, Jurewicz admits that while the trajectory of the industry is strong, she says different pockets of the industry are more challenged. One of those pockets includes some of the state’s leading beverage companies, including a few of Wisconsin’s leading beer and soda producers, who attested to some of the industry’s struggles at the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Food and Beverage Roundtable event Oct. 4 at Brewer’s Hill restaurant supply store Fein Brothers.


“It’s been a challenging year overall for us; it’s been a challenging year in the industry,” said Jim Kanter, MillerCoors’ Wisconsin general manager. “I think we’re seeing a lot of continued change with macro trends going on that started a few years ago. We’ve made some adjustments.”


Kanter was joined on the panel by fellow Milwaukee beer industry leaders Russ Klisch, co-founder and president of Lakefront Brewery, and Jeff Hamilton, president of Sprecher Brewery. Klisch and Hamilton expressed lukewarm feelings about the recent performance of their industry.


“The craft industry is not seeing the huge growth that we’re used to seeing,” Klisch said. “We’re about flat.”


Klisch stressed the importance of continuing to innovate in order to “play where the puck is going to be going.”


Hamilton concurred, calling business “OK,” and added that Sprecher’s crossover into the craft soda industry usually keeps it diverse enough to succeed.


“Carbonated soft drinks has its own issues right now, along with craft beer and regular beer in general,” Hamilton said. “We feel pretty fortunate to be doing OK in a bunch of bad environment industries that we’re playing in.”


Hamilton agreed that future innovation will “put us back in a bit more growth than we’ve seen the last couple of years.”


Another difficulty Hamilton sees on the soda side of Sprecher is what he called the “war on sugar.” While he said Sprecher is less affected by anti-sugar health trends than Pepsi or Coca-Cola, Sprecher is doing things differently to respond to new consumers.


“If you were to talk to most people under 35 years old and ask them if their kids drink soda, they would probably tell you, ‘no, and they never will,'” Hamilton said. “So we’re facing a new environment there as well.”


That health trend appears to be having an opposite effect on the food side of the Wisconsin industry. Tom Danneker, CEO of Klement’s Sausage Co. in Milwaukee, said his company posted double-digit growth in the past year, buoyed by a “protein snacking trend.”


“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” he said. “We make some great protein snacks. I wish I could take credit and say we’re incredibly smart and we saw this huge trend, but we just make a great product that fits a trend and we’re executing like heck to keep up with it.”

Despite the company’s success, Danneker said the bratwurst category — what he called the “anchor of growth for many, many years” — is declining.


“Like any business, you’ve got to understand where the market’s going and adapt accordingly,” he said. “We make close to 500 sausage items. If we don’t have something in there that’s fitting a trend and meeting demand, we’re in trouble.”


Kim Wall, president and owner of Baensch Food Products Co., Milwaukee, said her company has also benefited from health trends, such as the ketogenic diet, which prioritizes fatty foods like herring. She also embraced removing preservatives from all of Baensch’s offerings, another trend she said boosted business.


“We’re just really tracking those millennials,” she said. “I think I made the right move.”


Danneker described the disparity between some parts of the industry “like a tale of two cities.”


“You definitely need to manage those areas where you’re going to be up a little bit and you have to allocate resources as much as possible to those areas where you can make some incremental margin,” he said. “We’re growing, but the bottom line is a battle every day, and my guess is that’s true for everybody in this room.”

Holiday Traditions Provide Comfort

December 20, 2010 | Permalink

Serving Herring Brings Nostalgia to Many Families – even in a cocktail!


Now is that exciting time of year when many people begin
unpacking boxes filled with lights, special ornaments and various seasonal items in preparation for
another memorable holiday season celebrating old and new traditions. Traditions are a way for people to
gather with family, return to what is comfortable and enjoy happy experiences. Especially in this economy, making memories and continuing with tradition can help to ease the strain of challenging times. For many, home-cooked recipes, favorite drinks and special food combinations commonly conjure up fond memories.


Herring is one such popular item traditionally served during the holidays. For families in many Northern
European countries, especially Germany, Scandinavia and Poland, herring was an abundant and affordable food with high nutritional value. When later generations began immigrating to the United States, many settled in the Midwest where herring was less available. Herring then became more of a treat served only for special occasions. The food brought back nostalgic memories of the past, and with time, these cultures began to believe that eating herring on Christmas Eve or at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s would bring good luck in the year to come.

“During the holidays, it is important to carry on traditions that remain close to your heart. Memories are
something that no one can take away from you,” says Kim Wall, president of Baensch Food Products, the
company that produces the Wisconsin favorite, Ma Baensch herring. “Herring is a part of this nostalgia for many families. For them, it’s home, hearth and herring!”
Herring’s nutritional value is also important to many families today. Herring is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered key in the battle against heart disease. So this holiday season, make sure heart-andbrain-healthy herring finds a place at the dinner table.

Toast to your favorite holiday tradition with some of Kim Wall’s favorite holiday libations.




Baensch Press
1 shot of your favorite vodka, chilled
1 piece of Ma Baensch Herring Marinated in Wine Sauce
Pour vodka into a large shot glass, garnish with a piece of Ma Baensch Herring.
Add your favorite toast and “slug her down.” You’ll have good luck the whole year through!
Ma’s Martini
1 ½ oz of your favorite gin
Splash of wine sauce from Ma Baensch Herring
1 piece of Ma Baensch Herring Marinated in Wine Sauce

Chill cocktail glass to the point of frost. Fill martini shaker with cracked (not crushed) ice. Pour in gin.
Garnish with a piece of Ma Baensch herring. A lucky cocktail for your holiday guests.




Ma Baensch Bloody Mary
2 parts vodka
4 parts clamato juice
1 heaping t horseradish
½ t Worcestershire sauce
½ t + hot sauce
1 t fresh lime juice
1 t wine sauce from Ma Baensch Herring
¼ t celery salt
Dash fresh ground black pepper
1 wedge fresh lime
2 green olives
1 piece of Ma Baensch Herring Marinated in Wine Sauce
1 toothpick

Mix all ingredients and pour into a glass filled with ice. You may wish to rub lime juice on the outer edge of a tall glass and then roll the rim in celery salt. Garnish with a wedge of fresh lime and a toothpick with a piece of Ma Baensch herring sandwiched between two green olives. Perfect for a New Year’s Day brunch. Enjoy!

Ma Baensch Featured in Wisconsin Trails

November 10, 2010 | Permalink

New hyper for herring


Old-world recipes meet new-world marketing at Ma Baensch’s


Click to read article.

Kim Wall Featured in the Milwaukee BizTimes

September 17, 2010 | Permalink

When Kim Wall purchased Baensch Food Products Co. in 1999, she understood she was buying first and foremost the established “Ma Baensch” herring brand. Her top priority was and continues to be maintaining and building the brand. She recognized that taking care of her customers and employees are key to brand longevity. Wall successfully increased market share by refreshing the brand for the evolving market while keeping intact the core elements of the brand and product….


Click to read full article.

Wild Alaskan Salmon – A Super Healthy (and Delicious) Choice

September 16, 2010 | Permalink

With more and more consumers seeking food choices that are both healthy and delicious, Kim Wall, a seafood expert and president of Baensch Food Products, recommends trying recipes with Wild Alaskan Salmon. It’s in season and fresh in stores right now.


Many health-conscious seafood lovers select Wild Alaskan Salmon when they are looking for a tasty and easy snack to prepare. Like herring, salmon delivers essential omega-3 fatty acids in support of a strong heart. Plus, fatty acids have been linked to strengthening the immune system, eyesight and mental health.


“Having just returned from Alaska, where wild salmon is plentiful, I can testify to its flavorful taste,” said Kim Wall. “It was very exciting for me to catch a variety of salmon, including King Salmon, Silver Salmon and Pink Salmon, and then prepare delicious dips and salmon chowder. Wild Alaskan Salmon will always be my first choice for taste and health.”


Wild salmon is woven into the daily lives of Alaskans. From songs and dances to Native totems and celebrations, Alaskans cherish and honor the wild salmon. More than 15,000 Alaskan families catch a total of one million salmon every year. They preserve the salmon in traditional ways, drying them on wooden poles or smoking them in sheds.


Salmon are anadromous, which means they migrate from saltwater to spawn in freshwater. Wild Alaskan Salmon are born in freshwater, migrate to saltwater and once fully mature and ready to spawn, swim back to freshwater – right to the very place they were born! The salmon spend between one and four years in freshwater, depending on the type of salmon. Then they become smolts and migrate to estuaries where freshwater and saltwater meet. It is there where the smolts undergo a series of changes that allow them to live in saltwater. Salmon then go to sea in search of food. After spending from six months to six years maturing at sea, the salmon swim back to freshwater. Excellent sight and sense of smell help salmon detect food, predators and their birth stream. As they return to the place they were born, salmon change color and shape. The male salmon usually form a curved mouth (called a kype) with large canine-like teeth. The males of some species also form a hump on their back. The female salmon do not change shape radically, but do change color.


For salmon, it can be a very long and rigorous journey filled with rapids and waterfalls to return to their natal streams. Research has shown that the farther and longer the wild salmon must travel to spawn, the more fat they pack on for the trip, making fish from long rivers especially delicious. Once they return to their natal stream, they breed and lay their eggs. After spawning they usually die within a week, fertilizing the stream and creating a nutrient-rich environment for the new infant salmon, fish, wildlife and plants. Biologists have identified over 130 different animals and plants that utilize the nutrients from salmon.


Because of Alaska’s excellent salmon management practices, salmon populations are well protected. Regulations enable large amounts of spawning salmon to make it to their natal streams. Individuals, communities, tribes, businesses, harvesters, government officials and organizations are partnering to sustain Alaska’s salmon runs today and into the future.


Alaska’s annual salmon run from early may to mid-September produces five different types of salmon you’ll find at your local seafood market or grocery store including: King Salmon or Chinook Salmon, Silver Salmon or Coho Salmon, Red Salmon or Sockeye Salmon, Pink Salmon or Humpy Salmon, Dog Salmon or Chum Salmon.


Wall recommends any of the five salmon listed and offers these easy and delicious recipes from her kitchen:




Salmon Chowder

½ C onion, finely diced

½ C celery, finely diced

½ C red bell pepper, finely diced

6 – 8 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only, keep 5 or 6 six leaves per serving to the side for garnish

½ t fresh ground black pepper

4+ T butter

1 ½ C chicken stock

3 C red skinned potatoes, finely diced*

1 LB fresh Alaskan salmon, skinned, boned and cut into small chunks

1 one-half pint heavy whipping cream

½ LB smoked Alaskan salmon, skinned and cut into small chunks


Choose a stock pot with a tight fitting lid. Heat pot over medium heat. When pot is hot add butter. Once butter is melted add onion, celery and red bell pepper. Add more butter if needed. Add thyme and black pepper. Sauté over low heat, with lid on pot to retain moisture, until vegetables are well cooked, approximately 30 minutes. Do not caramelize – just sweat the vegetables.


Add chicken stock and potatoes; bring to a soft simmer. Cover pot and cook potatoes until al dente, not mushy. Test periodically with a fork for desired texture.


Once potatoes are cooked add fresh salmon; bring to a soft simmer. Cover pot and cook salmon until opaque. Add smoked salmon and whipping cream. Bring again to a soft simmer. Once smoked salmon is heated through, serve chowder in coffee mugs or small cups as this is very rich and thick. Garnish with reserved thyme.


*Potatoes – While vegetables are cooking, dice potatoes, skin on, and place in large bowl of cold water. Replace with fresh water periodically. This process will keep potatoes nice and white and remove some of the starch. Completely drain the potatoes before adding them to the stock.


Makes approximately 8 cups of Chowder.




Buffalo Salmon Dip

6 oz pouch, cooked, wild caught Alaska pink salmon

3 oz cream cheese, softened

1/3 C ranch dressing

3-4+ T hot sauce of your choice

1/2 C cheddar cheese, shredded


Cream together cream cheese, hot sauce and ranch dressing. Fold in cheddar cheese. Fold in Salmon. Refrigerate in air-tight container. Eat as a cold dip or put in crock pot to warm until heated through, then leave on a low setting. Serve with celery sticks, tortilla chips and/or crackers.


Note: Try experimenting with different kinds of hot sauce to change the flavor. Cajun, Mexican, Thai, Asian – just let your imagination run wild. Also this dip is excellent hot, served over noodles as a main course. A seafood twist to mac and cheese.