For more than 80 years, Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats has produced high-quality smoked meats. The company continues to modernize the plant and make improvements to processes in areas such as equipment, packaging and custom-built smokehouses, but the recipes have not changed. Customers will never find binders, fillers, extenders or added water in Nueske’s products, a point of pride for the company’s family and leadership.
The dedication to quality doesn’t come exclusively from the original recipes. Nueske’s recipes, leadership team, raw materials, and especially the employees on the floor from top to bottom, all contribute as a whole to the premium-quality the company provides to its customers and consumers nationwide.
In an interview with MEAT+POULTRY, Nueske’s discusses the ways tradition, production and its people come together to provide marketplace premium-quality products from its current 45,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility with an expansion planned for completion in mid-2017 and in its retail store.
MEAT+POULTRY: What are the different categories of SKUs Nueske’s offers and what channels are used for distributing them?
NUESKE’S: Nueske’s sells through both ecommerce, www.nueskes.com, our company store in Wittenberg, Wisconsin, and through distributors to foodservice and retail channels, and each channel has generally the same core Nueske’s products, although often in pack sizes unique to the channel. Bacon makes up the bulk of our SKUs, with ham and sausage coming just behind bacon, as far as product and pack variety.
M+P: What’s been the best-selling item historically and what’s the fastest-growing item?
NUESKE’S: We are best-known for our classic Applewood Smoked Bacon. It’s one of our original products and is truly our signature flavor: sweet, rich, and robustly smoky. Over the past decade, bacon sales have steadily increased.
M+P: What was the chronology of the non-bacon product lines and who usually initiates and develops new products?
NUESKE’S: Products, other than bacon, that are part of our core offerings are ham, sausage and poultry. We don’t come out with new products as often as many companies do, largely because we are so deeply focused on our current consistency and quality of our classic products. Roughly every five years we might have a new product launch, with some of our most recently added products (added in the last 10 years) being Wild Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon and our newest product, Applewood Smoked Jalapeño Bacon Cheddar Bratwurst, which was introduced to foodservice and retail this fall.
We love being able to add new products but we take time to make sure the products are right for us, are the best-tasting, most consistent specialty meats that they can be, all the while maintaining our focus on our core products. Much like our stance on being the best rather than the biggest, we want to produce the best products, not the widest variety.
M+P: What distinguishes Nueske’s bacon from others in the market?
NUESKE’S: Nueske’s uses custom smokehouses, designed by the family, and that design is not shared with anyone. Our bacon is smoked over glowing embers of sweet applewood logs for a minimum of 24 hours. Over the years, we’ve seen bacons labeled as double-smoked, and sometimes that bacon might have seen the smokehouse twice for 2 hours at a stretch. Twenty-four hours, minimum, gives us a nice slow smoke time and the way our meats are infused with natural smoke during this process is what gives us the flavor we are known for; Nueske’s signature smoke.
M+P: How many employees does it take to achieve the Nueske’s signature flavor and how many shifts do they work per week?
NUESKE’S: We have approximately 175 employees and run two shifts, five days a week. We balance technology with tradition carefully. Our people are our biggest asset and we rely on our team members for our quality. We don’t have heavy automation; that is not the only way to meet demand. Passionate employees diligently following our process control is what gives us the consistency we promise to our customers.