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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.

A Healthy Helping of Herring for Football Fans

August 25, 2010 | Permalink

For many of us, Labor Day is bittersweet as it marks the end
of summer, but also the beginning of a promising and action-packed football season. Whether it’s a
favorite professional team or a college alma mater, there’s nothing better than sitting back and enjoying a football game with friends and family, along with a cold beer and some tasty appetizers, like Ma Baensch herring.


For some local families, it’s a household tradition to polish off a jar of Ma Baensch herring and a box of crackers while watching a football game. However, that’s not the only way to eat herring. “There are many creative ways to dress up and eat herring,” said Kim Wall, aka “Ma,” a seafood expert and president of Baensch Food Products. “Three of my favorite herring recipes are herring salsa, festive herring spread and herring salad.”


Herring, with a boatload of Omega-3 fatty acids, is a much healthier option than chips and dip. It’s also packed with protein and calcium. “Eating our way through the Wisconsin winter while watching our favorite football team is a very popular pastime that can be quite enjoyable. But it’s even better with healthy foods,” said Wall. “That is why I like to liven up my winter a little more with some unique, easy and healthy herring recipes.”


To keep it healthy, consider trying these recipes from Kim Wall’s kitchen.


Ma Baensch Herring Salsa
1 24 oz jar Baensch Herring Tidbits in Wine Sauce, drained, discard sauce, reserve onions, and
cut tidbits in ¼
1 C peeled and diced Spanish onion
1 C cleaned, seeded, cored and diced red bell pepper
1 seeded, cored and minced jalapeno chili, optional
Juice of one lemon freshly squeezed removing pulp and seeds
Reserved onion
1 C fresh cilantro, minced


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, toss gently. Place Herring Salsa in a large resalable
container and refrigerate.


Cold Fish Tacos – serve Ma Baensch Herring Salsa in soft flour tortillas, garnished with shredded
lettuce, diced tomatoes and shredded Monterey jack cheese.


A Cold Appetizer – serve Ma Baensch Herring Salsa in a small bowl, garnished with fresh cilantro
and served with a side of sour cream and corn tortilla chips.


Served as a Salad – arrange lettuce leaves on a chilled plate, surround leaves with wedges of
tomato, slices of cucumber, spoon Ma Baensch Herring Salsa onto leaves and garnish with fresh




Festive Herring Spread
1-8oz. package cream cheese
1-12oz. jar Ma Baensch Marinated Herring in Wine Sauce
Drain, discard sauce and onions, cut pieces into quarters
3 T fresh parsley, minced
1 T fresh dill weed, minced
Dash Jalapeño Tabasco Sauce


Blend ingredients with food processor in order given. Cover and chill for 2-3 hours to allow flavors
to combine. Serve with toasted French bread, rye bread or crackers of your choice.




Ma Baensch Herring Salad
1-24oz. Ma Baensch Marinated Herring in Wine Sauce, Drain, discard sauce, reserve onions and
cut pieces into quarters
1/2 C dill pickle relish
1 medium apple*, cubed, peeled if desired
1/2 small Spanish onion, halved and sliced
1-15oz. can cooked, diced potatoes, drained
1-15oz. can cooked, diced beets, drained
Reserved Onions




1 C whipped cream
1 T white vinegar
1 t prepared mustard
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t whole dill weed, dried


Combine all dressing ingredients and set aside.
Toss all salad ingredients, including reserved onions, in a large bowl.
Serve salad with dressing on the side, allowing guests to drizzle on
dressing as desired. Garnish with fresh dill weed, if available. If
preparing ahead of time, cover and refrigerate salad and dressing


*For a tart variety try Granny Smith. For a sweeter variety try Braeburn.