Specialty Food Magazine

OCT 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Q&A W Q Thriving Through the Fads BY DENISE SHOUKAS hen Jeri Mesching's kids left the nest in 1986, she filled the void with her passion for cooking. After whipping up her Sweet and Tangy Mustard, Mesching conducted some grassroots market research: bringing her product to local shops in Hartland, Wisc., for tastings. Taste-testers' enthusiasm signaled she was on the right track. Seasoned pretzels followed, and East Shore Specialty Foods was born. In the '90's, production moved from Mesching's kitchen to a custom-designed processing plant and she welcomed two of her grown children to work with her. Here, Mesching talks about riding the wave of food fads, working with her family and the perks of her job. What's the best-selling product you carry today? Our best-selling item is our dipping pretzel. I think it's because its size, shape and excellent quality make it a natural companion for everything that can be dipped, from our mustard to our dipping fudge and caramel. What's the biggest perk of your job? Definitely the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who share my love for good food. In all the years I have participated in the Fancy Food Shows, as well as other food venues, I have developed wonderful, lasting friendships. I have also belonged to The Slow Food Society for many years and enjoy participating in their local events. What has been the biggest challenge? It's been riding the wave of food trends and fads that come and go. Our product line is traditional and has always contained quality ingredients like those I use at home. Take our mustard, which con- tains no salt, simply because there wasn't any in my original recipe. We concentrate on selling good food and believe that consumers will decide for themselves whether it is something they wish to eat. We rely on ingredients and taste rather than hype and claims. What's it like to work with your children? Do you feel like their mom or their boss? Both of my adult children, Kristin and John Paul, worked elsewhere before joining East Shore. Today Kristin is in the office and serves as the president, and John Paul is vice president and manages production. My biggest challenge is realizing they are not children. And while I'm always their mom, I have never really felt like a boss because they have contributed so much. They have both been here for almost 20 years, so we have grown the company together. 60 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com What has been your favorite culinary experience? Dining at a small restaurant in Milwaukee that advertises its cuisine as "international tapas." It uses the best local food available when possible but augments it with other carefully selected ingredients. One can visit repeatedly and always find something new. If you knew you were having your last meal, what would you eat? It depends on where in the world I happened to be. If I were in Mexico, where I love to go several times a year, it would be authentic Mexican food at one of my favorite restaurants. Overall, if I knew it would be my last meal, I would make sure it was something fresh, local and the best available. |SFM| Denise Shoukas is a contributing editor to Specialty Food Magazine. PHOTO: JERI MESCHING

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