Ma Baensch plans to expand market

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

Kim Wall, owner and president of Baensch Food Products Co., the maker of Ma Baensch’s Marinated Herring, is trying to expose a new generation of consumers to her company’s products. The herring filets, packaged in wine or sour cream sauces, have long been a holiday tradition with Wisconsin families. However, Wall is now working to get younger consumers to try her products, as well as more consumers outside the region. Her company, which is a division of Wild Foods Inc., is based at 1025 E. Locust St. in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, a location with natural high public visibility. She started displaying a variety of advertising banners on her building several months ago and routinely changes them.

“We’ve been (putting) kind of kinky banners on the building,” she said. “During Lent, we’ll do one that says, ‘Eat healthy Ma Baensch’s Herring and you won’t be swimming with the fishes any time soon.’ We’ve got to make them interesting, fun, exciting and goofy for young people. We have another one that says, ‘Great herring makes for great sex, just ask Ma!’”

Wall has also made repeated appearances at Roundy’s Metro Market in downtown Milwaukee, where she has demonstrated several recipes using Ma Baensch’s herring. During those appearances, she has given out samples of her recipes as well as herring served on crackers. She also did samplings during Metro Market’s singles night.

Those efforts are part of Wall’s efforts to reach out to a younger demographic.

“The younger group is much more urban focused,” she said. “We’re in the neighborhood we want to sell into.”

Part of the marketing effort is to expand the appeal of the herring products, making it a popular food for the whole year, not just the holiday season, Wall said.

Her marketing efforts are starting to pay off.

Baensch Food Products has had about 20 percent annual revenue growth for the last two years, Wall said. The company has a core staff of six employees and usually hires about eight seasonal workers between September and January, its busiest season. Wall said she will likely hire one or two additional full-time workers for 2007.

Baensch Food Products has been in its facility at Locust and Humboldt since the 1930s. There is no room for expansion there. Although Wall said the company is unlikely to move in the foreseeable future, she may begin looking for off-site storage for some of the company’s finished product.

“I’ve thought about buying a refrigerated facility, but most of the stuff out there is no good,” she said.

Wall is working to improve her distribution and product awareness in both the Eau Claire and Fox Valley areas, and she plans to gain a foothold in the Minneapolis market.

“Our growth has been through making sure our product is totally represented in our state,” Wall said. “People from Wisconsin should have Wisconsin herring. They don’t need to buy stuff from Minnesota or somewhere else. I’m as prejudiced about that as I am about my cheese.”

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