Manufacturers must balance health and indulgence

Food and beverage manufacturing today calls for a balance between health and indulgence, local experts say.

“Folks, they do eat healthy, but not all the time,” said Giacomo Fallucca, chief executive officer of Palermo Villa Inc. “There’s a time when we just want a good, old fashioned pizza, and that’s what we try to deliver.”

Palermo’s, based in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley, produces frozen pizzas and operates a pizzeria.

The Milwaukee Business Journal on Oct. 1 hosted leaders from southeast Wisconsin businesses that produce food ingredients, foods and beverages to learn more about the state of the industry. Company officials said as they consider the products to carry, they’re reviewing trends in consumers’ buying habits toward health and wellness, as well as foods that could be considered indulgent.

Shelley Jurewicz, executive director of FaB Wisconsin, said plant-based foods are considered a meta-trend. Her organization serves the state’s food and beverage manufacturing industry.

Jurewicz said lifestyles like the ketogenic and paleo diets are also popular, as are foods that have added benefits for mood management. Examples include two businesses in FaB Wisconsin’s accelerator class. Rally Energy produces caffeinated mints, and the Satori Food Project offers a creamer with anti-anxiety properties.

From the retail perspective, Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. vice president of communications and public affairs Jim Hyland said data determines what appears on shelves. The trend toward healthier eating is apparent, he said, with natural and organic options remaining a “big seller.”

That pattern has led the company to stock more plant-based products, serving vegans, vegetarians and those who are cutting back on animal products — sometimes referred to as “flexitarians.”

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co., which owns Roundy’s, operator of area Pick ’n Save stores, announced in early September that it would release a new collection called “Simple Truth Plant Based,” which will include meatless burger patties and grinds, plant-based cookie dough, pasta sauces, sausages, deli slices and dips.

At the same time, he said Wisconsin is still an agricultural state, and consumers continue to seek their dairy and meat products.

“Data analytics drives it,” he said.

Mike Walz, chief operating officer of Pretzilla-maker Miller Baking Co., said his company is balancing both health and indulgence. Plant-based meat-alternative producer Beyond Meat uses his company’s bread in its presentations, he said.

The business also works with Culver’s on the indulgent side, he said.

“Looking at the label, we’re non-GMO as of earlier this year,” Walz said. “(We’re) doing everything we can to keep our label clean, but at the same time, people are looking to see, ‘What can I do to have an eating experience?’”

Tom Buhler, director of business development at Racine-based Butter Buds Inc., said the preference toward health and wellness extends into food ingredients production. Butter Buds manufactures concentrated dairy flavors and specialty flavor ingredients.

Buhler said consumers want to see transparency from the companies that make food.

“People want to know what’s in the product, they want to know where it’s made,” he said. “Preferably, it’s made somewhere not too far away – that’s a trend. Hand-in-hand with that, more and more consumers want to know about what’s the sustainable feature or aspect of the products that they’re buying.”

Sari Lesk, Milwaukee Business Journal

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