Kangaroo Brands Inc.
7620 N. 81st St., Milwaukee
Industry: Food manufacturing
Since introducing its Sandwich Bros. of Wisconsin line in 2013, Kangaroo Brands Inc. has seen a surge in growth.
So much so that the Milwaukee-based manufacturer of handcrafted sandwiches and specialty breads is hiring 50 employees over the next six months, opening a fourth assembly line in January, and making plans for a second manufacturing plant.
“(The Sandwich Bros.) is the most widely accepted new product in the frozen handheld category,” said co-owner George Kashou. “It’s been extremely well-received by consumers.”
Originally called Peta Bakeries Inc., Kangaroo Brands was established in 1979 by John Kashou. His brother, George, joined the company the following year.
Today, the two are semi-retired, and Kangaroo Brands is run by John’s son, chief operating officer Salem Kashou.
While Kangaroo Brands specializes in pita bread, the Sandwich Bros. line makes 10 varieties of frozen handheld breakfast, lunch and snack sandwiches.
Its newest product, Italian Sausage, is set to be released in November. Other flavors include Sausage & Cheese, Chicken Melts, Angus Cheeseburgers and Gyro Sliders.
The Sandwich Bros. line, which can be found in major grocery stores like Pick ’n Save, Woodman’s and Meijer, has proved popular with consumers for many reasons, according to the Kashous.
For one, they are microwavable and require no assembly. The small sandwiches also have fewer calories than a larger sandwich and are a good size for today’s consumers, whom the Kashous say typically like grazing on food throughout the day and belong to smaller households.
In addition, the products boast a high amount of protein and are made with 100 percent Wisconsin cheese.
“The market is ready for high quality microwaveable sandwiches,” George said. “It takes less than a minute to cook and tastes as fresh as the day it was made.”
The Kashous credit the company’s recent growth to the Sandwich Bros. line.
They did not disclose the company’s annual revenue, but said the company grew 50 percent in 2014. It is projected to grow another 30 percent this year, and again next year.
The approximately 55,000-square-foot plant Kangaroo Brands has occupied since 1985 is expected to reach capacity in 2016.
As a result, the Kashous said they plan to start looking next year for a second manufacturing plant in Milwaukee that could be about 100,000 square feet.
For now, Kangaroo Brands, which runs two to three shifts, is meeting its demands through the conversion of 2,500-square-feet of warehouse space into production space.
The company spent $1.5 million to build a second sandwich room to house a third and fourth production line. The refrigerated room increases its capacity by 25 percent.
The third production line became fully staffed and operational in early September, and the fourth line is anticipated to open in January.
These new lines have so far created 25 jobs, and another 50 positions will be hired over the next six months.
Kangaroo Brands currently has about 150 employees.
Besides the company’s hiring plans, new assembly lines and projected growth, it is also gearing up to introduce a couple of new undisclosed products next year, as well as launch a digital marketing campaign.
Kangaroo Brands produces 25,000 sandwiches per hour, and the process consists of making freshly baked pita bread, cooling it, and conveying it through a robotic slicer. The bread is then conveyed into the sandwich assembly room, where it is stuffed with pre-cooked components, individually wrapped, co-dated, and brought through a metal detector.
Finally, the sandwiches are boxed, placed onto pallets, and moved into the freezer to await distribution to the retailers’ warehouses or distribution centers.