In business, it’s a clear advantage to be located close to one’s suppliers and to have strong relationships with those suppliers. At least with reference to one supplier, Tracy Lundberg has the ultimate advantage: the supplier is her husband.
Lundberg’s company, Sconnie Foods, produces a squeezable sauerkraut product whose popularity is taking off.
Lundberg got the idea for her product after watching her daughter scoop sauerkraut from an open container at a baseball game. It was a hot, dusty day with flies buzzing about; the sauerkraut had probably been sitting out for hours; and the serving utensil was a plastic fork touched by untold numbers of hands and stuck back into the sauerkraut vat.
Seeing the squeezable ketchup and mustard bottles sitting nearby, Lundberg wondered, “Why isn’t sauerkraut available this way?”
Determined to solve the problem for her daughter and sauerkraut lovers everywhere, Lundberg experimented with different formulations and packaging types. Along the way, she realized that one reason sauerkraut isn’t generally bottled like ketchup and mustard is the tendency of the liquid to separate from the cabbage solids.
It just so happened that her husband, Brock Lundberg, also an entrepreneur, had invented a product that could solve the problem.
Brock Lundberg’s company, Fiberstar, makes fiber out of the pulp from citrus fruit. The company uses a patented mechanical process to open the fiber structure and create a porous fiber matrix with high internal surface area; the result is a highly absorbent powder that is used as an emulsifier, binder and thickener in sauces, baked goods and other food products.
It turned out that Fiberstar’s product, Citri-Fi, was just the solution Tracy Lundberg needed to keep her sauerkraut from separating and preserve a smooth texture.
The sauerkraut is sold in supermarket chains in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Lundberg is looking to expand into other states; meanwhile, the sauerkraut is available on the Sconnie Foods website.
Sconnie Foods was the grand prize winner of the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation’s Idea Challenge, and was also named best new vendor at the Dierks Waukesha Foods Show.
Both Tracy and Brock Lundberg were at the IFT15 food and beverage sector trade show, promoting their products as part of the In Wisconsin® exhibit.
Sconnie Foods is based in Eau Claire and Fiberstar in River Falls, although the University of Minnesota holds the patents for Fiberstar’s technology. Brock Lundberg (pictured above with the company’s director of international marketing, Nick Kovalenko) received bachelor’s and master’s degrees there before completing a Ph.D. in biological systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.)
The couple are both originally from the Eau Claire area, but Brock Lundberg said in choosing Fiberstar’s location, he selected Wisconsin just as much for its business environment as for proximity to family. “The whole reason we got started as a company was because of the business environment in Wisconsin,” he says. The firm received a loan from the Department of Commerce, and also completed the ExporTech™ program; its product is now sold in 60 countries worldwide.