Wisconsin All-Stars Profiles

Lodi, Wis.
Founded: 1958
Employees: 230
Key Executives: Magdy Albert, president; Daryl Shackelford, vice president, RapidPak
Alkar produces thermal-processing equipment, ranging from one-truck ovens and chillers to continuous ovens that produce meat products at rates exceeding 25,000 pounds per hour. “We produce turnkey solutions that include racks, trees and renovations,” says Chad Anderson, vice president of sales.
Alkar’s latest product is a Cyclone linear belt oven, manufactured in belt sizes of 40 inches, 60 inches, 80 inches or 100 inches. It can produce more than 20,000 pounds per hour on many products.
RapidPak focuses on horizontal form-fill packaging, with patented servo motor technology. The equipment, which is used in both the food and medical industries, is easy to wash down, operates at a high-speed and is customizable to the specific needs of a processor, says Jim Peterson, central regional sales manager. “We have flash-pasteurization of sausage-type items right on the packaging machine itself,” he adds. “Before the packages are sealed, they’re given a steam burst that reduces the log kill on the package, and then it is evacuated and sealed.”
Karl Schnell Inc.
New London, Wis.
Founded: 1948
Employees: More than 200
Key Executive: Ernst Otto Schnell, CEO
Karl Schnell (KS) has two factories in Germany that design and manufacture machinery for the processing of meat and sausage, as well as cheese, pet food and confectionery products for distribution worldwide. “We can offer a single machine, or a complete processing line designed by KS,” says Bob Dichard, director of sales. The types of machines vary from raw-material preparation to the apportionment of the processed products.
Crushers and grinders, mixers and emulsifiers, both in horizontal and vertical designs, are available for any size company. On the high-end side, its precision emulsifiers can process bone and frozen meat products at a rate of 3,900 to 8,800 pounds per hour. The company’s latest emulsifier features three-stage cutting and automatic knifehead adjustment, Dichard notes.
The company’s world headquarters are in Winterbach, Germany, with other sales branches located in dozens of countries worldwide. Its U.S. location in New London houses sales, service, and a machine and parts warehouse.
American Foods Group LLC
Green Bay, Wis.
Employees: More than 4,000
Key Executives: Tom Rosen and Carl Kuehne, co-owners and CEOs; Greg Benedict, president & COO; Rob Hovde, CFO
American Foods Group is the sixth-largest harvester of cattle in the country and is fully integrated from the feedlot to the consumer. The company produces beef products from fresh boxed beef to meat snacks and jerky. Its Fresh Division includes fresh and frozen boxed beef, ground beef, specialty products, and case-ready and tray-ready beef, while the Brands Division features sliced liver, corned beef, steaks, sausage products, pickled products, meat snacks and jerky. The company’s brands are America’s Heartland, Skylark, Big City Reds, Dakota Brand, Bull & Hannahs, The Great American Steak Co. and the Sheboygan Sausage Co.
Sheboygan Sausage Co. products now are being re-introduced into the marketplace. Originally introduced in 1933, they are high-quality sausage products made the “old-fashioned” way. Joe Baker, president, brands division, says that the brand typifies the Wisconsin sausage tradition. “Just like the Sheboygan Sausage Co., many immigrants came to this country years ago and settled in with their Old World recipes and formulas,” he explains. The company still uses the same methods — carefully smoking choice meats, blended with the finest spices, over selected hardwoods — to produce an array of distinctive sausages.
Steve Giroux, vice president of field sales, says that the popularity of sausages is continuing in both retail and foodservice. “More and more sausage products are showing up on menus at the ballpark, convenience stores and restaurants,” he says.
Three of American Foods Group’s 12 processing plants are located in Wisconsin, as is a corporate office in Green Bay. Two other corporate offices are located in Omaha, Neb., and Alexandria, Minn.
Cher-Make Sausage Co.
Manitowoc, Wis.
Employees: 150
Key Executives: Tom Chermak, president; Larry Franke, vice president of finance; Fred Konchan, plant manager; Chuck Hoefner, operations; Jim Coulson, purchasing manager; Diane Koneczka, human resources; Bill Becker, Cher-Make brand manager
Cher-Make Sausage Co. is a third-generation, family-owned sausage processor that has built its business on producing high-quality sausage products made the traditional way. Along with its co-packing and private-labeling business, the company’s Cher-Make brand is available in retail stores in Wisconsin and surrounding states, and the Smoky Valley line of gourmet summer sausage is available nationally through gourmet distributors and gift packers. “In early fall of this year, we are proud to be opening up a new 13,000-square-foot addition that will expand and improve our formulation, smoking and packaging departments,” says Tom Chermak, president.
The company continues to introduce new products. “Our most recent additions have been two dinner sausage items that feature a blend of Wisconsin cheeses and an exciting flavor profile,” he says. “Our natural-casing smoked cheddi-links with cheddar cheese and smoked Italian sausage with mozzarella cheese are great off the grill or a perfect enhancement to any main dish.”
Cher-Make believes in continuous improvement and building on its tradition of quality. “Our vision is to be recognized as a quality leader in the manufacture of sausage products,” Chermak says. “From this foundation, our entire employee base has worked hard to ensure that we have the culture that not only supports this vision but truly lives it.” As a result, he says, the company has benefited in the areas of food safety, product quality and consistency, process improvements and efficiencies, employee safety and employee involvement.
Johnsonville Sausage LLC
Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
Founded: 1945
Employees: Approximately 1,100
The No. 1-selling sausage brand in the United States, Johnsonville produces fresh bratwurst, as well as fresh breakfast and Italian sausage. The company’s product range also includes an array of smoked, precooked and snack sausage.
Ralph and Alice Stayer opened a butcher shop in their home town of Johnsonville, Wis., in 1945, and the company has continued to be family-owned and operated, keeping its headquarters in Wisconsin. There are now three production plants in Johnsonville, as well as a processing facility in Watertown and a support office in Kohler.
It’s practically a given that any grill that’s being operated in Wisconsin is going to have a bratwurst or two on it. But that trend is carrying over to the rest of the country too, says Dori Fors, business/facilities coach. “Americans are using their grills more often and their stoves less for meal preparation, so they are hungry for a variety of grilling ideas,” she points out. “Our highest growth markets continue to be the East and West coasts, where people have traditionally only grilled chicken, hamburger, steak or hot dogs.”
The company has been busy introducing several new products at retail. The Johnsonville Heat & Serve brats and Italian sausage were created to capitalize on the current consumer trends of convenience and the need for great taste. “It’s like Johnsonville has done the grilling for you, and you can actually enjoy a fresh-grilled taste on a weekday instead of waiting for the weekend,” says Fors.
Additionally, the Stadium Style beef frank is another product designed to be enjoyed at backyard cookouts, and the company has launched a line of ground sausage for the case-ready market.
Nueske's Applewood Smoked Meats
Wittenberg, Wis.
Founded: 1933
Employees: 150
Key Executives: Robert Nueske, president; Tanya Nueske, national sales manager
Nueske’s may have gotten its reputation for its applewood-smoked bacon, but Nueske’s produces a wide variety of meats. The one thing in common is that all the meats are produced in a traditional, Old World style.
“We started with old-fashioned recipes and Old World processes,” explains Tanya Nueske, national sales manager. “We actually build our own smokehouses, and we do a 24-hour smoking on most everything we make. The time and effort that goes into it, you just don’t see people doing anymore.” Those old-fashioned recipes came to the United States along with the Nueske’s ancestors in the 19th century.
The care that the company puts into its award-winning products is evident. The company’s bacon, for example, recently placed first in the National Association of Specialty Food Trade’s competition for meat, pâté and seafood products. The company’s sausage products feature snack sausages like landjaeger, breakfast links, mettwurst, liver sausage, cheddar bratwursts and dinner sausages of various flavors. The company also makes a natural casing beef and pork wiener. Nueske said that she saw the popularity of those hot dogs first-hand on a Fourth of July family holiday trip. “I am shocked at how many kids don’t eat hot dogs, but I got them to eat ours,” she says, laughing. “It was hysterical; they were like vultures.”
Nueske’s has been based in Wittenberg since its start more than 70 years ago. The company’s manufacturing plant, corporate offices and a retail store are all located there.
Patrick Cudahy Inc.
Cudahy, Wis.
Founded: 1888
Employees: 2,000
Key Executives: Bill Otis, president; James E. (Bud) Matthews, senior vice president, sales; Daniel Kapella, vice president, foodservice; David Amacher, vice president, operations
Patrick Cudahy started his career in 1874 as superintendent of Plankington and Armour, which was Milwaukee’s largest meat-packing plant at the time. In 1888, John Plankington transferred his interest in the company to Patrick and his brother, John. After several name changes, the company became Patrick Cudahy Inc. in 1957. Today, it is part of Smithfield Foods.
Patrick Cudahy specializes in pork products, including raw and precooked bacon, dry sausage, precooked sausage, ham and sliced meats. Its latest product development lies within its Pavone Deli Co. line of Italian meats and its La Abuelita line of Hispanic products, says Bill Otis, president. Pavone’s products include proscuitto, Genoa salami, pepperoni and soppressata, to name a few. The La Abuelita line includes cantimpalo salami and jalapeno salami, as well as regular, jalapeno and garlic-flavored chorizos. “The increasing demand for Hispanic products is an opportunity Patrick Cudahy continues to address with much success,” Otis notes.
The company’s founder came to Wisconsin from Ireland when he was three months old, and it became his lifelong home. The company has remained in the state every since. “PCI embraces Wisconsin’s quality of life and lifestyle,” Otis says. NP